Harnessing the power of connectedness | Growing adaptive experts #ConnectAU15

I recently presented one of the sessions at #ConnectAU15, a huge expo focused on futures thinking and connected practices, with one summit devoted to Connected Education. I’ve blogged about the other themes here:

Below are the notes from my session which focused on how we need cohesive frameworks and a shared language if we are to make the most of the promise of digital technologies in the context of collaborative system change.

The proliferation of Twitter chats over the last few years is an interesting phenomenon that is reflective of a range of different drivers: accessibility to mobile technologies, the perceived convenience of access to ideas and resources of value, the lack of constraints over time and geographical location. We know that our behaviours are most often impacted by those of our peers (Fullan et al, 2015), far more so than by other factors and so it is likely that the oft-repeated “Twitter is fabulous PLD” exhortation also plays a part in drawing people to them.

I believe there is also something more serious at play here: the increasing disillusionment of educators with the profession that, in countries such as the US, UK, Australia etc focus on narrow measurements of impact on learning in ways that constrain its learning designers teachers. 62% of educators leave the profession in the first 5 years in the UK, 1 in 3 in Australia. The profession squeezes those very employees in whose hands the greatest difference can be made to student achievement,

“…the person who gently closes the classroom door and performs the teaching act – the person…who is alone with students during their 15,000 hours of schooling..” – Hattie (2003)

Recent research in TALIS and Innovative schooling-focused reports from the OECD indicates that the levels of self efficacy over their work, as perceived by educators, is one of the greatest influencers on student achievement. Solutions are often mooted in the form of quick and easy online courses or removing teachers from the equation to fill the gap with online learning for students.

There are frequent clamours for the reimagination of the learning experience for our young people – shifting from C20th industrial models to those that appear to be more inclusive and flexible. The same clamours must be heard for our educators. The two models go hand in hand. A system that is learner-centred requires teachers to be skilled at adapting the learning experiences on the fly and must feel empowered to do so; this is one of the clearest indicators of expert teachers (Hattie, 2003) and the concept of the ‘adaptive expert’ is central to current thinking around effective professional learning (Timperley, 2013).

Fresh thinking around models for professional learing point to ones that balance both individual control over one’s learning (as we see reflected in the urgent embrace of Twitter chats) and collaborative approaches that enable colleagues to work together on developing and moderating shared thinking around practice.

Digital technologies may well be enablers to such process but, bringing people together is not an end in itself, and no technology will lift teacher professional leaning in isolation of clear frameworks for its use.

I argued that we need a clear line of sight that takes into account each teacher’s needs (as defined by their students’ needs) and with school, cluster and system models aligned in process and practice. This thinking is not new but it is evolving fast, driven by thinking from Fullan, Hargreaves, Bryk et al.

I shared a handful of examples where we see pockets of promise but, as yet, these are not lined up in a way that is cohesive. Interestingly, the new IES clusters in NZ offer a potentially exciting new approach to system wide, innovative models for learning and we watch this space with interest, as are other researchers overseas.

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