I’m really looking forward to a long-term relationship with the Horizon International Bilingual School in Vietnam. On Monday, 1 August we will work together withe staff from both the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh campuses.
This Web page will provide links to some of the activities and resources we will be using.
It’s that time of year again so off to Swinburne Uni in Hawthorn for DLTV’s DigiCon. I’ll be doing just one short session on Next Era Ed and particularly, stepping attendees through an inventory of what they are already doing well and what they might look more closely at. I’ll use a new worksheet:
I’m excited to be participating in the The School Library Conference (SLC) on 3-4 June at Wesley College in South Perth. The conference is presented by the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia (AISWA) Libraries and the Western Australian School Library Association (WASLA).
Because of my long association and friendships with teacher librarians in Western Australia – and their great conference theme — I’m using this as an opportunity to reflect on my dreams as a young educator and the decades-long journey into the current reality. As I described the keynote for the programme:
What Happens to a Dream Achieved?
In a time of change and turmoil, poet Langston Hughes asked his provocative question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” As we continue to tick along into the 21st Century surrounded by more gadgets, richer media and smarter algorithms, we might want to ask, “What happens to a dream achieved?” Unravelling both questions allows Tom March to explore the recent past and current situation with the goal of daring to dream a desirable future. Inspired by the conference theme and his many years in education meeting with teacher librarians in Perth, Tom uses this keynote as an opportunity to venture into the world of “In Your Dreams.” Weaving together an illustrated story of personal anecdotes and professional aspirations, Tom hopes to both inspire and challenge his fellow curriculum leaders currently working in WA school libraries. The presentation uses the personal to appeal to the universal. It blends a young educator’s goals and the professional journey that has followed through reflective story telling. Tom ventures into the worlds of great literature and literature review; former students and future world leaders; old models and new paradigms – all with the intent of engaging the audience in a significant shared experience that leaves us all with a dream in all our hearts and a direction in our steps.
I will also lead concurrent session offered twice in the day:
Unpacking your next era of education
All schools have made progress with student access to rich media, one-to-one devices and smart software. Many have jumped in with both feet and a handful of initiatives. Does the right hand know where the left foot is going? In other words, when left to their own devices, are students flourishing like never before or is technology more disruptor than accelerator of learning? Perhaps something was missed when the digital initiatives were designed? This session unpacks Tom’s Next Era Ed model and empowers teacher librarians to contribute to their school’s wisely-guided systemic change.
I’m using this poll to gather input on a series of free workshops to be held in the eastern states of Australia. I will also create videos / webinars to share online for the 3 most popular, so vote away!
Also, use the comments link to share other topics you’re interested in.
In my new role as Director of Innovation K12 at Hobsons APAC, I don’t get to keynote as much as I used to. This is kind of a nice thing because it means that every time I do it’s a chance to reflect. On Sunday, I’m pleased to present at the ICTE NSW conference held at ACU in North Sydney. This prompted me to recall that the first time I presented in Australia was as the NSW Computers in Education Group in Bathurst. This was only months after emigrating and it was lots of fun to share what we’d been doing at San Diego State with WebQuests, Blue Web’n and Filamentality as well as meet some people who have become longtime friends and colleagues in the profession.
There is a method to this madness of hyperlinking a slew of the droppings I’ve left along the Web these past couple decades. You’ll have to attend the talk or chat with me later to find out what it is!
It’s a pleasure to be part of the inaugural Edumate Confab to be held 19 October at Pymble Ladies’ College. Our Hobsons Edumate team have been working hard to make this day as useful as possible for our schools. My sliver of the day (everyday, in fact!) is focused on how to help schools achieve what matters most (for them). For me this translates as “student success” as defined by each individual school community.
My sessions at the Confab all focus on teaching and learning, from the biggest issues confronting today’s schools to best practice approaches to designing, delivering and achieving the school’s goals for student success.
My goal has long been to help educators and schools nurture meaningful student achievement. Often this includes a conceptual shift from teacher-delivered lessons to student-driven learning. I’ve spent decades working on this problem and would like to use this post to describe how I’ve come to what is a new chapter in my professional life.
This journey begins when I was a classroom teacher, integrating word processing, multimedia and desktop publishing into circa 1990s high school English classes. District technology mentorships and other recognition at the time indicated that my attempts were viewed positively. Yet I was fortunate enough to work as an occasional teacher education instructor at the time which exposed me to the latest learning theories. These helped me see the weaknesses in my classroom units and inspired me to get a Masters degree in Instructional Design. After almost a decade I left the classroom because I wanted to focus on creating the best learning experiences I could. This was the period, 1994-97, was when I worked with Professor Bernie Dodge to develop the WebQuest approach and I went on to articulate other formats to integrating the Web into rich and authentic learning experiences. I mention this phase of my career because it relates to this post’s topic in two ways. First, Understanding by Design was the assigned text for one of the courses Bernie and I team taught, thereby immersing me in the work of Wiggins and McTighe early on. Second, you can see that my focus was on designing and developing classroom learning activities: thus curriculum, not technology. More about why this is significant shortly.
As the Years Passed
After leaving the university and moving to Australia, it was only natural to keep developing Web-based learning strategies. This early flurry of work included model activities like Searching for China and Eyes on Art as well on the online design environment called Web-and-Flow. My main audience were other “pioneers” in Web-based learning and authentic education and we wanted to “push the boundaries” to create inspiringly rich and meaningful learning activities for our students. But there was a problem. And the problem has only grown as technology has gone from “emerging” to “ubiquitous.” The problem is that to make any real difference, “rich and meaningful learning activities” can’t be a “one-off” or something students did in 6th grade with Ms Tech-Savvy. The problem is analogous to when one teacher tries to enforce a rule the rest of the staff tacitly ignore: students adapt to the dominant culture. So many early adopters of ICT-enhanced learning discovered that most students had learned and preferred the easy path of “playing school: you pretend this is learning and we’ll pretend to learn.” Back in 2001 I explored this challenge in an article titled “Re-Tooling Schooling” and it denotes a shift in my thinking and focus. Yes, I want students in a classroom to engage in great learning activities, but as someone who wants to make a real difference, I realised that the only solutions from this point on had to be systemic. If a whole school or system wasn’t transforming itself, the spirit of inquiry would find it hard to flourish in a culture of passivity. So where are we now?
The Present (The Problem)
Unfortunately, as technology has gone from emergent to ubiquitous, it has failed to make significant differences in shifting schools from teacher-delivered lessons to student-driven learning. I have two theories for this. The first I call “tech’s appeal” and fully intend the rhyme with sex appeal. Because of the amazing advances we’ve all experienced through new technologies, we’ve been smitten by a kind of collective mystique that some new gadget or software will achieve the desired transformation. We’re blown away that Walkmen have become iPods that have become smartphones that have become cameras that have become GPS transmitters that have become friend finders, that have become watches, that will become…? So in education we swoon before tech’s appeal, wanting to believe the same magic will transform school-based learning. We fall for the allure and buy computer labs, videodisc players, CD-ROM encyclopedias, interactive whiteboards, iPod Touches, clickers, iPads, eTexts, course management systems, and try HTML, blogs, QR codes, YouTube, podcasts and TED Talks. And on and on… But things haven’t changed fundamentally. Maybe the technologies aren’t really “there” yet, but there’s a second problem besides blind faith in the power of technology.
The Second Problem
Education has Attention Deficit Disorder. I base this on the multiple messages I receive everyday from my educational networks. Posts, links, tweets and emails buzz constantly about “the new:” gadgets, apps, ideas. The current flavors are PBL, STEM/STEAM, Maker Movement, coding, gamification… Don’t get hung-up on these examples because they are no better or worse than the dozens of others that buzz about the press daily. Over the years other such ideas have borne the weight of high expectations for improving schools: flipped classrooms, PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) or SOLEs (Self Organising Learning Environments). Rather than change education, these good ideas and frameworks have probably yielded nothing more than Educational Attention Deficit Disorder. See if you don’t feel like our friends below:
How are we meant to engage in any substantial transformation when we’re buried by a stream of constant “good ideas” and “necessities?” We have to focus. And be honest: if an easy answer or silver bullet solution were out there – one that really produced the results we want – in this age of instant communications we would all hear about it and re-tweet exponentially so that schools everywhere would be transforming with the virality of funny cat animations. So what is the honest truth?
The Honest Truth
Like any human organisation, education is a complex endeavour with many interconnected parts. Even knowing where to begin the work of transforming schools is a challenge. The video above illustrates that. So the problem is not a shortage of good ideas. After many years wrestling with this, I’ve come to believe we lack three things: a focused vision, a worthy process and sustained effort.
A Focused Vision
I’ve written elsewhere about recommended steps and benefits of clear and focused vision, so I won’t labour the point here, but let’s highlight the obvious: unless we’re sure where we’re headed, we’ll never get where we want to go. The twists and turns, detours and distractions, are too numerous. Similarly, if everything’s urgent, we’ll never get to the essential.
Understanding and other worthy processes
The business world long ago realised the importance of a process for continuous improvement. Things like Total Quality Management (TQM) turned Japanese cars from flimsy to first-class in a generation. Unfortunately, most schools continue to operate based mostly on habits and engrained patterns. Being the complex places they are also makes it tough to know which processes to use as the lever for change. Amidst the buzzing of new ideas and Ed Tech ADD distractions, it probably sounds like the oldest, most boring solution, but there is one aspect to schooling that touches every student and teacher in every grade level and course: our curriculum. Unfortunately, I’ve found that an impoverished definition of curriculum often prevents this powerful tool from realising its potential. Start with the vision: what amazing things do we want our students to achieve? what does successful achievement look like? Let’s make authentic performance of these achievements the heart of our curriculum. To encourage success, let’s be specific about success criteria and provide samples of such achievement by previous students. These measures are the kind of assessments that guide students and empower their ownership of learning.
Education is fortunate that we have evidence-based processes to use. My preferred frameworks are Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding and Schooling by Design®, Robert Marzano’s High Reliability Schools and integrations of research by folks like John Hattie and the team at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Each provide processes that, used over time with quality-reviews, can empower a school’s continuous improvement.
My Best Chance to Make a Difference
Having arrived at this point, 2013-2014 was a period where I explored avenues where I could apply the above learnings to make the biggest difference. This included a time in Cambodia working on the senior education team at a large NGO as well as focused-upskilling on my part with Jay McTighe who’s been generous and gracious in supporting my expertise in Understanding by Design to the extent that I am now a member of the McTighe & Associates Consulting group and we have co-authored an article.
However, as a pioneer (e.g., Filamentality) and believer in the power of smart software to accelerate what I call Next Era Ed, I entered into discussions with companies who support a richer view of curriculum. My thinking was that working for the right company on a good team who was committed to evolving a “smart digital environment,” I would be in contact with many more schools in an ongoing partnership as they develop their use of the software to continuously improve the achievement of their vision. Fortunately, through a lucky synchronicity of timing and opportunity, I joined Hobsons at the beginning of 2015 as the lead consultant for teaching and learning. What set Hobsons Edumate apart was that rather than only curriculum mapping, they offer a unified system of what I call “closed loop” curriculum: vision > unit design > online learning space > rich student assessment > back around to vision and unit design with revisions based on students’ actual performance. So more than a “written” curriculum, we move past the “taught curriculum” and capture the “learned curriculum.” In my role I essentially provide my “strategic friend” consulting, but also influence software design and help school leaders with pedagogical integration and change management.
After working mostly alone since starting ozline.com in 1998, it’s a joy to be part of an enthusiastic team, driven by a passion for helping schools to authentically move from “schooling” and “teachers” to “learning” and “students.” We’ve wanted this for decades and now, with 1:1 devices and evidence-based pedagogies, we can make the dream a reality.
The list is now in a Google Doc where students should write correct and meaningful sentences for each term. Students can count-off or choose their favorite terms to write sentences about. When the sentences are drafted, they will be reviewed for correctness and then rehearsed aloud to practice English pronunciations.
2. Finding Characteristics You Value
The class brainstormed 18 different — and important — characteristics for for leaders. But no one in the world can be this good! Please choose 4 – 6 that you think are the most important. You will use these to analyse different leaders from the past the present. Let’s practice with one leader who has recently died.
Remembering Nelson Mandela
Watch the video and pay attention for examples of any of the 4 – 6 characteristics of a leader that you chose.
When the video is over (or we have watched enough), you will answer this question and support your answer using your 4 – 6 characteristics of a leader:
When I left the classroom in 1995 for a fellowship to develop things like WebQuests and Filamentality, one of the first projects I thought I’d work on was a comprehensive Web-based resource for The Catcher in the Rye. Ok, so almost 20 years later I get around to it….
The site is (appropriately) called Some Crazy Cliff and focuses on an Understanding by Design approach to unit planning and classic WebQuest formatting that leverages great rich media to promote authentic and meaningful student learning.