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Whether you are starting off as a new administrator, or you have been in the role for awhile, it is important that you “make your mark” and bring your own style to a position. Just like your teachers want to make an impact with their students, you want to make an impact with your school community. Doing something “awesome” is important as administrators should feel that they are contributing to the growth of the school, not simply the management of it.
In my own experience, it is easy to lock yourself in a room, work on some great ideas, and come out with something (you believe to be) new and amazing. Yet closing yourself off and focusing on being “innovative” often leaves you with great ideas that will get nowhere, because you have not created the relationships needed for people to feel safe trying something new. If you don’t spend time in the classroom and see what the inner-workings are of what learning looks like every day, your ideas can become great in theory, but unattainable in practice. It is important to recognize that innovation is a human endeavour, and if you are going to put too much time into something, it should always be people, not stuff.
So what is a great step to help move this forward? Move your office into a classroom.
Administrators have a lot of managerial duties that they have to get through in a day. It can honestly be overwhelming. That being said, it is rare that we don’t have access to an untethered device that we can go sit in a classroom and be a “fly on the wall”. This helps not only with visibility of students, but will give you a great perspective of what teaching and learning looks like, and what hurdles teachers have to jump through in a day to be successful. Is the technology working? Does the classroom have seating that is conducive to different types of learning styles? Does Wifi work?
Many teachers accept their classroom “as is” and do the best with what they have and they don’t say anything. This does not make those boundaries acceptable. By simply spending an hour catching up on emails from a classroom, you will learn a lot more about your school than you would spending an hour in your office. You don’t have to do this all of the time, but you should do it often.
This isn’t “no office day”. Although I love the intent behind that initiative, I find the idea of having a solitary day to go spend time in classrooms is not enough. This should be a weekly process, if not more. The time you spend just sitting in a classroom builds a comfort and trust level with staff who eventually don’t even know you are there. That’s kind of the point. If you don’t have time to go into a classroom, your priorities might be out of order.
Through this process, you might not get as much done, but you will build relationships with teachers in this process that will lead them going over-and-above for you, which in the long run, will not only save you time, but creating better opportunities for your entire school community.
Believe me, the investment is worth it.
- Helping students to cultivate the skills needed for writing is often about cultivating a love of writing. Every student needs to be able to express themselves clearly, concisely and intelligently, whatever they are going to end up doing in later life. “The best way to help them develop those skills is to make writing personal and give them a vested interest in communication. Blogs have become one of the most popular website formats in recent years. Blogging websites have become the essential ways for many people to broadcast their personal stories, challenges and insights. This has created both a new generation of budding writers as well as a generation with a keen interest in the stories of others. Blogging offers an immersive experience. Students are simply encouraged to begin a blog chronicling their life story or a subject that ignites their interest. That’s when the skills are picked up and developed as a matter of course. The initial blogging assignment should be simple, but at the same time offer a bit of a challenge.” Post offers some useful advice about blogging. - Rhondda Powling
by: Rhondda Powling
Categories: International News
- 118 of 119 of the participants on the survey said they would recommend the conference to a friend or plan on attending next year.
- Before we left the conference we had a school step up wanting to host it for 2015
- We had inquiries from other schools in Africa to host the conference in 2016.
Now there are a lot of ways to measure success and when you get responses like this from the participants from the first ever Ed Tech specific conference on the continent you’re doing something right.
It’s crazy to go back through my blog and read about this conference over the years. The things we have tried, the failures, the successes and how a little conference that was suppose to be a one off in 2007 in Shanghai, China has turned into a yearly conference that sells out in a matter of months and is slowly spreading….is well….I pinch myself.
What makes this conference so successful? I believe it’s the values of the conference that we try and hold true to every year.
Learning is Social:
The majority of the money for the conference goes to social gatherings. At the recent Learning2 Africa conference that included taking all 150 of the participants plus committee members and presenters out to a local Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. It means finishing every night with a social event with free flow wine and beer. It means giving space during the conference for people to talk and bounce ideas off each other.
This is also why we run a “cohort” strand through the conference. An hour each day for those that teach the same subject to come together and talk about what they are learning at the conference, share resources from different sessions, and set up a way to connect even after the conference is over.
We know learning is social and so we make social a large part of the conference
Learning is Participant driven:
Matt Kelsey, one of this year’s Learning2Leaders in Africa, wrote a great blog post about this as he reflected on the conference. Less than half of each day’s learning is driven by the conference timetable. The 3 hour “extended session” where participants spend 3 hours going deep in one area is less than half of the conference each day. The rest of the time is driven by participants. Unconference sessions which participants get to create and then choose to go to each day, the workshops that are a time for participants to share with each other what they are doing in their own classroom, and the cohorts which are driven by what that group wants to discuss together.
There has been a lot of talk in education about student’s driving their own learning. We believe the same thing about conferences. We believe if you get out of participants ways they’ll learn on their own. Set up a structure and then let them go.
Continue to innovate:
One of the core values of Learning2 is to continue to innovate as a conference. We were one of the first conferences to use Twitter. In 2007, the first year of the conference, we made every participants sign up for a Twitter account. Twitter had only gone mainstream about 6 months earlier.
In 2012 we switched from participants uploading and sharing images of the conference on Flickr to Instagram. As Instagram was just going mainstream.
This year there was no big “tool switch”, however because the conference is participant driven and it was our first time putting a conference on in Africa we found being able to adapt on the fly in the middle of the conference was our biggest asset. Educators know this….if something isn’t working in a lesson you switch, you adapt. You get feedback and you make changes.
I found it interesting how many people thanked us for listening to them and making changes on the fly. Everything from setting up a “Mindfulness Center” after one of our Learning2Talks focused on “Being Mindful” to changing the schedule, adding or rearranging transportation and just doing what was best for the participants.
It’s amazing what happens when you apply the Pedagogy or better yet the Heutagogy we want to see in the classroom…..to a conference.
I know I’m bias. I was on the founding committee of the conference in 2007 and I now sit on the advisory board that oversees the conference and its’ structure. So you can take all of this for what it’s worth. But you can’t tell me we’re not doing something right. That we have something special here worth spreading. The #learning2 hashtag alone tells the story of how participants are feeling. The fact that a couple of our Learning2Leaders last year felt they wanted to remember the conference by inking themselves with the conference logo says something. There is something here when a High School Science Teacher seeks me out after the conference to tell me in his 29 years of teaching this is by far the best conference and PD he has ever attended.
Here’s what I’ve learned. No matter their age students want to be in control of their learning, they want to be engaged in the conversation and they want us to continue to learn with them. It is a simple recipe actually, create a conference the way we know students should be taught and then innovate with them.
Learning2 Asia is Oct. 2 – 4 I encourage you to follow the hashtag #learning2 on Twitter and learn with us.
Categories: International News
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