Monthly Archives: May 2013

Can collaboration in school ever really be Collaboration?⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

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Today I gave a speech to open A.B. Paterson College's new Collaborative Learning Centre, pointing out the key challenges around great collaboration, as outlined by Morten Hansen (I wrote a series of blog posts a while back sharing these worthwhile lessons). It got me thinking about the nature of most collaboration - even the good stuff - in schools, and the much more complex serendipitous nature of collaboration outside school.

Learning in school is one thing. Heading to university another. Rarely does either truly reflect the incredible pace of change in the world beyond those thirteen years of formal education, where the demands for more complex collaboration and ingenuity test even the best education systems' agility to the limit.

Take the world of fashion, for example. One of our clients, a luxury fashion brand for whom we develop and deliver education programmes in the communities in which it operates, has grown nearly ten times in as many years. Digital teams now operate on a par with merchandising and finance, and clothing designers themselves are acutely aware from their very first sketch how their product will look in a digital store as much as on the runway.

The people in these teams would be unlikely to have ever met had they attended the same school. Slightly geeky computer programmers would hardly be seen creating amazing projects with the fashionistas, the mathematics and science majors wouldn't be seen spending time in home economics thinking about how they could imbue cloth with data-processing technology that will heat the fabric when it's cold outside, and cool it down when summer arrives. 

And in university, these serendipitous, tangential collaborations are made even more unlikely to succeed in anywhere other than extracurricular clubs, as students specialise ever deeper, narrower. 

Yet, in the world outside formal education, serendipity is increasingly what makes the creative, financial, scientific and engineering worlds go around. Tangents, not five year plans, are where the biggest discoveries and creations of the past decade have come from, whether it's developing social networks with billions of users, finding preventative medicine in foods that can help more of us avoid cancer by eating certain foods regularly and cooking them correctly, or developing construction technologies that enable apartment blocks 17 stories high to be constructed in one week in China's expansive metropolises.

Chefs work with PhDs, construction trades work in ways that run against what their forefathers would have said was "right", and individuals in dorms can reach out and find the right team to get the rest done just as well. 

Schools have an opportunity to prepare their young people with the robustness and acuity that is required to survive and thrive in this fast-paced, anything-is-possible world. It involves schools spending time like they've never spent it before understanding what constitutes collaboration, real collaboration and not just 'group work'.

It means the construction of new spaces, and the overhauling of existing ones. Rows of chairs and the same group of students sitting with each other all year long is not preparation for collaboration 'out there'. Students of the same ability working with each other doesn't chime with the notion that, in true collaboration, you reach out to those smarter than you to fill your gaps in understanding - we need more cross-age coaching, joint projects, younger students bringing their different perspective on the world to older students who might have lost it on the way.

And these aren't just great for collaboration. Education research is mounting that it is the skill set for collaboration in the real world that also brings the most to learners' progress in school. 

Now, go and discuss this. In a team. Collaborate on something to rock the status quo of group work and encourage young people to truly collaborate.

This post was cross-posted from NoTosh's fabby Facebook page. Give us a Like there and see more little gems from the whole team.

Making music with one instrument: your mind⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

My Flemish pal Kris Hoet has been at it again with his collaborators at Duval Guillaume, producing this incredible clip about a team of music lovers, musicians and DJs who, despite having physical challenges, are able to create music manipulating a programme with only their brainwaves. The goal of Smirnoff, the advertiser? To show that there is the power to create in every one of us.

Things you always really knew: the truth about why courses don’t work, and a bit more about Elmore⤴

from @ Cat's eyes

fig1instructionalcoreJust looking back on the last post here and I had a bit of an “aha” moment. Reading Elmore’s School Reform from the Inside Out (Harvard Education Press, 2008) he elaborates on the idea that was to become the “instructional core” of Learning Rounds. The instructional core according to Elmore is the basis of instructional practice and it is a triadic structure made up of interactions among students and teachers around content. The theory seems to evolve out of something attributed to Cohen, Raudenbush and Ball, (2002) and seems to be based on their definition of capacity, which they see as

“the knowledge skill and material resources that are brought to bear on the interaction among students, teachers and content” (Elmore, 2008, p119).

It gets more interesting when Elmore goes on to explain the impact of introducing professional development into this . Assumptions of effectiveness abound around professional development, often along these lines: giving teachers more skills and more knowledge will make them better teachers. Elmore argues that investing in professional development that supports the scenario above can in fact have a negative impact on practice, since only one element of the instructional core will have been changed. The teacher returns from the PD experience but the other conditions remain the same. Change doesn’t happen and so, if repeated over time, the teacher begins to see ideas from outwith the classroom as having no effect on practice. Cynicism ensues about “new ideas,” there is little organisational capacity to support the teacher in navigating the complex interactions between the new skills, modifications to content and necessary changes to student engagement and it goes downhill from there. I’m jumping ahead a bit here, but actually, when you think of the work and the organisational conditions required to support the necessary changes in all 3 elements above, in Elmore’s words, “you begin to describe an organisation as it rarely exists.” (Elmore, 2008, p 120)

So this is where Archer’s theory of morphogenesis and morphostasis – how agents act upon structures and change them, resulting in both elements being changed, and this process being repeated over time – comes in. In the context of learning rounds this now looks very interesting. Teachers observe and change their practice, adjustments are made to students tasks which require a different type of engagement from them. The three elements in the model have changed, and the whole scenario has shifted, become something different. The questions around what makes the changes happen come into focus – can I identify the structural and cultural conditions in this that are working to facilitate the changes? And how does agency manifest itself in the process?

More reading of Archer is required, but for the moment, I’ll finish off with Elmore and a synopsis of his 5 reasons why schools don’t improve:

5 reasons why schools don’t improve
1. All practice is essentially invented and reinvented in classrooms. Teachers have little access to challenging ideas that will help them do their work better
2. Existing norms reinforce the belief that experience alone increases expertise, and all teachers are equal in their skill therefore they can’t learn from each other
3. Teaching is a largely undifferentiated profession. Teachers with strong expertise in certain areas can face resistance if they assume the role of professional developer, coach or mentor without the endorsement of management, structures, professional organisations etc
4. The design of work in schools is incompatible with improvement. Teachers work in isolation and opportunities to engage in “continuous and sustained learning about their practice in the setting where they actually work” (Elmore, 2008; p127) are difficult to build into the structures of schooling.
5. Lack of guidance on performance and accountability. Internal accountability needs to reflect external accountability. Schools weak in internal accountability see a causal link to outside factors beyond their control and develop a sense of passive helplessness. Schools with strong internal accountability know their success is due to themselves and their own practices, shared values, knowledge and skills.


Glow and CfE support – the elephant in the room?⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

A great blog post from Charlie about the current disconnect between Glow and ACfE. Glow has always been touted as *the* delivery mechanism for ACfE, and yet, as Charlie points out, there’s little mention of GLOW in the new resources for the national courses. Why is this?  Is it almost as if those writing the resources were afraid to include GLOW for some reason?

Again, I agree with Charlie that there needs to be some more evidence of joined up thinking between the Schools and the Glow/Emerging technologies parts of Education Scotland. When the version using MS365 starts to be rolled out in August, it’s vital that there is a reason for teachers to visit Glow, and perhaps more importantly,  to return and contribute. National learning spaces for subjects, stages, and ACfE themes are the minimum that should be there perhaps…

We need a vibrant successful Glow for the eventual ICTEx plans for GlowPlus to be realised down the line and for there to be a seamless transition. The issues with platform agnosticity apart, our education community *must* have a reason to *want* to go into Glow. Forcing them in, as one or two prominent figures in education have suggested is completely the wrong approach to take and is as as outdated as the hierarchy which produced it. My own  views on this are well known. Bruce Robertson of RM-sponsored ADES made the following point about Glow and Leadership…

 “The leadership necessary to make Glow be successful over the past five years has not been demonstrated,” 

I hope he wasn’t referring to the type of leadership which forces teachers to use Glow just for the sake of it, to massage the user stats by posting stuff in Glow which might be better placed elsewhere, but the leadership which we need from Education Scotland and school leadership teams. By this I mean an increase in the cultural capacity which encourages and leads by example. The opportunities for improved or enhanced learning and teaching available through using Glow (rather than the ‘Huvtae’ attitude displayed by some leaders in education) need to be demonstrated and promoted to teachers and students up and down the country.  

Charlie’s also alludes to this need for capacity building,both cultural and physical.  It’s this which will ensure the success of Glow365 and GlowPlus, and only this. Some joined up thinking needs to be on the menu please.

Glow and CfE support – the elephant in the room?.


Filed under: capacity-building, future of education, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICT, sustainability, teaching and learning Tagged: ACfE, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICTEx, Leadership