Replied to Innovation in schools (the édu flâneuse)

For me, innovation in education is about interrogating where voice, power and agency reside. It is worth asking: who has power and influence? Who has control of measures, expectations, systems, norms and processes? Who has autonomy, voice and ownership? And what can we each do, now, that is productive and meaningful for our students?

Deborah, I really like your discussion of innovation and ecosystems:

An ecosystem is a complex community of interconnected organisms in which each part, no matter how seemingly small, has an active, agentic part to play in the community. There are constant interdependent relationships and influences. The notion of an ecosystem of education resonates with Bob Garmston and Bruce Wellman’s third Adaptive Schools underlying principle of what they call ‘nonlinear dynamical’ systems: that tiny events create major disturbances. This principle reflects the way change often happens. The little things we change or do can have unexpected, chaotic, incremental effects that are difficult to quantify or not immediately noticeable.

Working as one of those ‘little things’ that come into the school it can be easy to bring in a script when arriving at a new school. The problem is that each school is made up of many other ‘little things’. I have therefore found it more useful to gauge as much about the school’s context as quickly as possible and then re-framing my message to fit.

Tom Critchlow describes this as ‘client ethnographies‘:

Every time you’re on-site with a client’s organization you’re studying the people, the behaviours, the motivations. You’re asking questions of as many people as you can.

While Doug Belshaw talks about the dangers of dead metaphors and failed frameworks:

So although it takes time, effort, and resources, you’ve got to put in the hard yards to see an innovation through all three of those stages outlined by Jisc. Although the temptation is to nail things down initially, the opposite is actually the best way forward. Take people on a journey and get them to invest in what’s at stake. Embrace the ambiguity.

Although it can be a challenge to find the time and resources, without it change is often frustrating to say the least.

Replied to How to Innovate: Ask Forgiveness, Not Permission – Joel Speranza (Joel Speranza)

A few years ago now, I decided I wanted to trying doing a kind “flipped learning thing with videos”. I didn’t really tell anyone about it, maybe because I was a bit shy about the whole thing. But I filmed a few videos, I uploaded them to youtube and shared them to my students. The impact was immediate. Students loved, parents loved and my bosses loved it!

Another great share Joel, thank you. This is an interesting to compare with Adrian Camm’sPermission to Innovate‘. Maybe what you are offering is an informal permission to innovate?

I still wonder how this fits with wider school change? In particular, I am reminded of Dave Cormier’s concern over the champion of change and the focus on the complicated over the complex.

Replied to Sfumato in education

I think there are many ‘hard lines’ in education that should be blurred, softer, and less definitive.

Where would you add a little sfumato in education?

One area that I think would warrant from a little softness is timetables. Although I read about examples where schools manage to break the rigid constructs, sadly this is often the exception.
Replied to 2 Uncomfortable High School Truths (EDUWELLS)

The system is so fixed, most students understand the sort of success they are likely to aim for and achieve before they start based on their home life relative to others around them. Killing time always becomes a priority over using it.  It really is time to align school systems with the increasing control young people have in their personal lives. My question is how long do they have to wait?

This is another great reflection Richard. I was left think recently about home life and the anti-library. Although books around the home may not equal reading, it at least says reading books is a good thing.

In regards to students being glad to waste away time at school – a feeling I have experienced teaching numerous electives in the past. Do you think that it is realistic to believe or hope for an environment where students do not celebrate such waste or is this just a part of being a teenager?

Replied to Maintaining Innovation – Ideas and Thoughts

When I look around, the vast majority of people are maintaining. How wonderful to know that someone is working to keep the lights on. Congratulations if you’ve “innovated” and changed your mindset and practice. That’s great. But if the change you made is so great, I’m guessing you’re working on how you maintain it. If not, then perhaps your just seeking the rush of “new” and are forgetting the value of “old”. So I wonder what we can do to celebrate and honor the maintainers? How do we continue the conversation and shift to empowerment that still values maintaining and sustaining many of the existing constructs of life? If you’re a high school student does your school suggest you find a job that maintains? While we may have continued work to do, I would be thrilled if more schools would take pride in the innovations they’ve achieved and now spend more time and energy in maintaining.

Another thought provoking post Dean.

To be honest, I have been struggling with the idea of ‘maintaining’ of late (although I had never actually thought of it like that.) My current role started life as a ‘transformation coach’. I was going to work with school leaders to identify learning opportunities associated with our technological solution and support them with implementing this. Based on where the project has ebbed and flowed, I have now ended up supporting timetabling and reporting.

A lot of things that I read would say that I should leave, go find something that drives me or something like that. The problem with this is that so much of the ‘innovation’ that occurs in the system that I am in depends on certain foundations around things like timetabling and attendance being in place. It is not the most exciting work, but it is still ‘real’ work. As I recently pondered:

The work that I do has many focuses. Sometimes it is about supporting simple transactions, other times it is about everyday efficiencies. Sometimes it is about helping schools reflect upon particular workflows to ease their workload, other times it is about improving a process, such as the creation of timetables. All of this though is real work that has some sort of impact on student learning in the end.

I am reminded of your questions about ‘revolutions‘ from a few years ago and the belief that sometimes we need to focus on strengths. I sometimes think that the notion of innovation haunts like spectre and that sometimes the best thing we can do is support and encourage each other.

Also on: Read Write Collect

Bookmarked School Growth: Small Changes Lead to BIG Impact by Chris Wejr

Too often in my career, I have seen schools, districts, and provinces make huge changes without really knowing if they will be successful. When we make large changes, we take big risks as these changes require so much capital (funds, time, resources, etc) and if we do not achieve the intended outcomes, it is a big loss for all those involved. Learning Sprints allows us to bring in evidence-based practice for a short cycle to determine if it has a positive impact in our context. If it doesn’t work with our context, it is not a significant loss and we can pivot or reset to take a different path to support teacher growth and student learning. By making these small changes, over time, we begin to see big results… and a significant impact on school growth.

Chris Wejr reflects on his experiences of using learning sprints as a means of making small and meaningful impact.
Bookmarked School Growth: Building on Strengths by Chris Wejr

Considering the success of self-regulation as a focus, could we now try to maintain that self-reg culture while shifting the focus to growth in reading?  He agreed that there had been an awesome success with self-reg and that we had a strong platform of literacy (especially reading) that we could build on.  With Mark’s positive experience with reading instruction and self-regulation, along with his strong relationships with staff, he could help lead us to shift from a focus on self-reg to a focus on reading.

Chris Wejr discusses the way in which his staff have extended the focus of self-regulation and strength-based learning into the area of reading achievement. He discusses some of the strategies that they have used to support and encourage this, such as Strong staff collaboration and ongoing professional development. In some ways, this reminds me of the work that I was a part of using disciplined collaboration as the framework.
Replied to Success indicators of a professional learning model (the édu flâneuse)

I have been reflecting lately on measures of success of this model. How might we know that our approach to internal professional learning is having a positive impact? As part of the model’s implementation, we generate ongoing honest feedback from staff in order to refine the model each year, including via focus groups and anonymous surveys. For instance, in the annual staff survey, the pathway options, especially the Professional Learning Groups, were rated highly by staff. Additionally, our staff satisfaction with professional learning is above the national benchmark.

Great to hear how you have distributed the leadership for the different groups. Look forward to reading the book Deb.
Bookmarked School improvement: Sowing the seeds of success (Australian Council for Educational Research – ACER)

Work in schools long enough and we all get to know the bitter experience of a good idea poorly executed. So, what makes the difference between good implementati

Tanya Vaughan, Jason Borton and Jonathan Sharples provide a case study of educational change across three years. They provide a number of steps:

  • Taking a long-term approach: Treat implementation as a process, not an event; plan and execute it in stages.
  • Giving it the best chance to succeed: Create a leadership environment and school climate that is conducive to good implementation.
  • Starting with your own context: Define the problem you want to solve and identify appropriate programs or practices to implement.
  • Ensuring a smooth implementation: Create a clear implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources.
  • Ensuring a smooth implementation: Create a clear implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources.
  • Looking to the future: Plan for sustaining and scaling an intervention from the outset and continuously acknowledge and nurture its use.

This example of science is interesting to consider alongside my discussion of supporting technology.

Replied to Live the Mission – Will Richardson (Will Richardson)

Just having a clear mission isn’t enough; that mission must drive the work in every part of the school down to the support staff, maintenance crew, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers.

We often talk about ‘moonshots’ but the problem is that this was a mission that captured a nation. Is it possible to have such a mission at a school level that also captures all the external pressures that exist within the system?
Replied to What do activism and power look like? (the édu flâneuse)

I have wondered before about activism and the forms it takes. Who can be an activist? Is it only those with secure, late-career jobs? Can the early career teacher or researcher really challenge the system in which they work when that can put them at risk of unemployment or further precarity and uncertainty? Does an activist have to look, act and speak a certain way? Can an activist use the apparatuses of power in order to undermine that power, or does she need different tools?

I feel that what is often missing in this discussion is not the point in the career, but the support around you? To stay the journey I feel that one needs authentic voices around them who help to maintain the vision of change in light of any pressure and pushback.

Also on: Read Write Collect

Bookmarked Transforming Schools: How Distributed Leadership Can Create More High-Performing Schools by an author (Bain)

The best organizational leadership models are purpose-built to accomplish the organization’s most critical mission. While every school has its differences, they all share the fundamental mission of improving teaching and learning. Groups of elementary, middle and high schools in a given system are more alike than unalike when it comes to addressing this core challenge. Standardizing as much as possible around a well-developed model makes deploying and managing it easier and more effective. If schools have similar roles and leadership processes, the system can better align critical support functions such as talent development, compensation and evaluation.

Chris Bierly, Betsy Doyle and Abigail Smith discuss some of the challenges associated leadership in schools, suggesting that distributed leadership can create more high-performing schools. Reflecting on research, they highlight five principles designed to help develop a distributed model.

  1. Make a bet on a leadership model.
  2. Create and strengthen leadership capacity.
  3. Focus leaders on improving teaching and learning.
  4. Create teams with a shared mission.
  5. Empower leaders with the time and authority to lead.

One concern that I had throughout this extensive post was the blurring between ‘coaching’ and ‘evaluation’. For more on the topic, I recommend Alma Harris’ book Distributed Leadership Matters.

via Tom Barrett

Replied to Consolidation is not a dirty word by Dr Deborah M. Netolicky (the édu flâneuse)

Consolidation doesn’t mean there is no work to do. It doesn’t mean standing still or stagnating. It means doing better what we are already doing now. It means connecting in with one another to learn from each other, celebrate, challenge and share our expertise. It means continuing to develop shared understandings and shared practices, and looking back occasionally to remind ourselves of how far we have come.

I really like this focus on celebration and consolidation Deb. We can become so wedded at times to the notion of transformation, yet transformation comes as we consolidate bit by bit. To me I think this is what Richard Olsen was trying to get at with the Modern Learning Canvas. It is about the small things, doing them well and going from there.

Also on: Read Write Collect

Bookmarked ‘Lifespan’ or ‘Learnspan’? Designing to mitigate irrelevance – (

Brand (1994) refers ‘shearing layers of change’; the components of a building that over time, may or may not alter and/or have the capacity to alter, in response to required changes. The components as he describes are 1), the site (setting and location), 2) structure (foundation and load bearing elements), 3) the skin (exterior surfaces), 4) services (the wiring, plumbing, heating ventilation), 5) the space plan (interior layout of walls, doors, ceilings), and 6), stuff (chairs, desks, appliances etc.)

This is an interesting take on the longevity of learning spaces from Chris Bradbeer.

To avoid obsolescence of educational buildings what is important therefore is not only to consider the ‘lifespan’ of our schools but also we are cognizant of their ‘learnspan’

via Tom Barrett

Liked We’re Thinking About This Backwards (Hapgood)

While mass education is good and should be pursued as a long-term solution, if I was going to target our online literacy immediately and had a limited number of seats, I would target it at everyone that will find their way to positions of influence. Politicians. Policy leads. Product managers at tech startups. Future FBI agents and social workers and department heads. I would look at the gears of democratic institutions — political, civic, administrative — and see who has their hands on the levers, from the mid-level bureaucrats to the top.

Liked Teacher voice to flip the education system: ACEL 2018 panel presentation (the édu flâneuse)

Our book is a microcosm of what we would like to see more of in education, although we regret not including student voice in the book. It is one drop-in-the-ocean attempt to amplify, elevate and value the voices of teachers and school leaders. We hope that in our Australian context it will lead to politicians and policymakers seeking out the views and expertise of those in schools. Flipping the system in this way is about building networks and flattening hierarchies so that we can all work together for the good of the students in our schools.

Replied to

I have not read the full report, but can I just that the longer I spend in a central position the more I recognise the need for trivial efficiencies. I have come to realise pedagogy of any sort is built upon a foundation of triviality.
Bookmarked Modern Learners Podcast #48: Timeless Learning With Pam Moran and Ira Socol (Modern Learners)

Timeless Learning by Ira Socol, Pam Moran, and Chad Ratliff may just be the best book I’ve read about how to change schools and bring all the things we know are important about progressive learning to traditional public and private schools.

In this conversation with Ira Socol and Pam Moran, they discuss education change and reform. It was an interesting episode. There were two quotes that stood out to me:

How do you get people to change? You have to change the question – Ira Socol

You have to start with your values and beliefs and who’s in change and whose voice matters – Pam Moran

Liked Facing An Unknown Future (DCulberhouse)

If we are not engaging the future thinking necessary to at least try and imagine what the world will be like for today’s kindergartener by the time they graduate…then it will be incredibly difficult for us to even consider how to begin to prepare them for a non-obvious future and an exponentially changing world.