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It is that time of year again when we all the talk turns to the new year. With this comes talk of new resolutions. Like last year, I am using this opportunity to set new goals. Last year, I set myself three goals:

  1. Utilise data in a more structured manner within the classroom in order to better personalise learning

  2. Provide clearer instructions and more time for student lead learning

  3. Lead by providing clearer reasons for change and supporting others in becoming better leaders

Looking back at these, I think that I have come some way with creating more opportunity for student lead learning and improved on how I introduced change and innovation. However, I still feel that I can improve the way I use data to inform my choices in the classroom. So moving forward, here are my new goals for 2015:

1. Think more about the impact of space to support learning

Last year my focus was placing the learner at the centre. However, what I came to realise was that the key was not necessarily about who was at the ‘centre’, but what conditions are created for learning. Teaching electives, I too often left spaces as I inherited them. Subsequently, by adopting someone else’s environment, I therefore placed undue restrictions on the learning possibilities and potentials. Whether it be moving desks or finding space to create displays, I am going to place more emphasis on how the space is structured and why.

In addition to this, I used Edmodo as a digital space to support learning. However, the problem I found is that although it was fantastic, and much more user friendly than the Ultranet, it did not provide appropriate means for students to work collaboratively and provide each other with ongoing feedback. I was always in control. I think that the answer maybe to better use Google Drive and create a richer culture of sharing and collaboration. Although at present I am not exactly sure how to best organise this.

2. Use assessment to better foster more personalised growth and development

A part of the problem that I faced in my focus on data is that what actually constitutes ‘data’ and for what purpose I am collecting it. Too often we look for measurements that are easy to calculate and quantify. However, learning is not always so neat and tidy. In hindsight, I think that I was asking the wrong question, I was focusing too much on summative assessment, instead I should have been giving more attention to assessment for learning.

I really like a comment that Dave Cormier made in a recent post, “we need to replace the measurable ‘content’ for the non-counting noun ‘caring’”. I feel that a key element in all of this is fostering an environment where students own their own learning or as Cormier puts it, “they care”. This includes involving students in the development of their own learning. I was really inspired by an article in the Guardian from Tom Sherrington reflecting on his experience of students co-constructing their learning. Although Sherrington’s example maybe an extreme, how can we expect students to own their own learning if they do not have any control or ownership over it?

3. Better engage with the community to make relationships and connections the focus of learning

One of the really interesting things to arise out of my participation with a group investigating (Marzano’s) instructional model was that other than semester reports there is no formal process in place in regards to informing parents about the curriculum and learning. Instead, the majority of communication home is focused on discipline and behaviour. Although it is often argued that this starts with making more positive calls home, I feel that a bigger shift is needed than a few more calls home. My goal this year then is to use technology to pro-actively engage with the wider community in what is happening in the classroom. This is something that arose out of my work last year with the Google Teacher Academy. I hope that more time in the classroom and less time in administration will provide more opportunity for this. Maybe this will be through Compass and the act of confirmations, but I feel that something is lost in putting information and ideas behind walls. This was one of the issues with the Ultranet. I will therefore begin by using a Global2 blog to communicate the curriculum and celebrate student learning in a more open manner as I started doing at the end of last year.

One Word: Growth

Lisa Meade recently posed the question: “If you had to pick one word for yourself, what would your word be?” I think that my one word would be ‘growth’. It is easy to lock students into standards of above, at and below. However, such a mindset is both fixed and reductive about what constitutes ‘success’. The question that I would like to think that each action should come back to is how is this supporting learning growth?

So, what about you? What are your goals this year? What is your one word? Do you have any thoughts and suggestions that might help support my growth as a learner? I would love to know.


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creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14421694749
 
I recently wrote a post wondering whether you have to be a radical in order to be a connected educator? In response, +Eric Jensen directed me to Tom Sherrington’s post ‘Signals and Noises in the EduSphere’. In it Sherrington discusses the counter-productive nature of disruptive noise when it comes to communicating online. I tried to post a comment on the blog, but it produced an error, so I decided to simply elaborate my thoughts here instead …
 
In his post, Sherrington postulates that the mode of communication that we choose affects the depth of understanding that we achieve. In a ‘high quality exchange’ we are able to build upon ideas by finding common ground which includes challenging and refining our own opinions. In contrast to this, a ‘low quality exchange’ involves ideas losing their meaning as they are not given time or lack any sense of context. One of the keys, according to Sherrington, to creating a signal and not just more noise are relationships and remembering the people behind the ideas. He ends his piece with the suggestion, “When I disagree with someone or review their work, I’ll imagine sitting in front of them, face to face, before I express (broadcast) my views.” This is some great advice and says a lot about connecting online.
 
Sherrington’s musings reminded me of a post I wrote a few months back in response to +Peter Skillen‘s wondering as to whether the modern phenomena of perpetuating ‘one-liners’ was actually detrimental to productive change? At the time, I thought that there were many benefits to Twitter, such as coherently summing up the main idea, curating a digital identity, engaging with aphorisms and perpetuating a hope for a better world. However, I am becoming more and more pessimistic about such prospects. I still see a place for Twitter as a means for communication and I still feel that many of my arguments still stand true to some degree. I am sceptical though about the benefits of getting every teacher on Twitter, as +Mark Barnes recently posed. I think that this misses the point to a degree.
 
Twitter is most effective when it is built around and in addition to communities and relationships that already exist. Fine you can form relationships within Twitter, but as both Sherrington and Skillen point out, the medium is restrictive. I believe teachers should grow their own PLN, a point I have made elsewhere. Too often though, people constitute following 1000 excellent educators as developing a meaningful community. It is what we do with those people, how we interact, the stories that connect us, which make a community.
 
I was recently going through old +Ed Tech Crew episodes. In a 2011 interview+Doug Belshaw explained that he limits the people he follows on Twitter to 150. He calls it a ‘convenient hypocrisy’. Interestingly, he has since reneged on this, instead now choosing to use lists to split between those people who he is open to engage with and those who he activily engages with, never missing a single thing. 
 
Belshaw’s suggestion was a godsend for me as I was really struggling to maintain any sort of personal connection on Twitter. In my early days it was ok, I only had a few followers and could keep my finger on the pulse, but as my feed steadily grew, so did my disconnect with my communitie(s). Instead, Twitter was becoming more akin to a river in which I would dip in and dip out out of. Since Belshaw’s suggestion, I have used lists and I actually feel like I am a part of the community again, because I am able to connect with those who are truly important to me. I still have my normal feed, which I dip into, but I also have my own list which I scan through every now and again. I have found using lists is particularly important when it comes to connecting across time zones.
 
After reading Sherrington’s post, I am realising more and more the power of professional relationships in turning our ideas into signals, rather than just adding to the clatter of noise. I am just wondering what tips and tricks you use when sustaining relationships online? Is it about time? Or does one medium help more than another? Have you managed to develop meaningful relationships simply within Twitter? Please share, would love to know.

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