Stop #collaboration now – the importance of space

Yesterday our director and I had a conversation about promoting collaboration among staff members. As we were discussing what worked and what challenges we were facing, he pointed out something that I had heard before, but it never really resonated with me until now: to establish a culture of collaboration, the physical space at school needed to promote it otherwise we were going to fight an uphill battle.

It dawned on me how important architectural planning was to adopt a modern model of education that promoted communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. So what do you do when you strongly believe in 21st century education, but the physical layout of your school is counter-productive? Here are some suggestions:

  • Group subject areas’ classrooms together: if all of the science teachers are working in the same area or share the same workroom (even better), collaboration is more likely to happen.
  • Try to build a schedule so that a subject area’s teachers all have the same prep period or lunch block.

I really would like some input from you. Can you think of any more creative ideas to promote collaboration within the constraints of existing space?

To lifelong learning!

Do you have 21/21 vision? – Part 1 of 8

In their book The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education Kay and Greenhill say if we want our schools to prepare students for this century, we need to have a clearly defined, personal vision of “21st century students and the education they need to get there”. We cannot expect lasting, pedagogically-sound change to happen if we are not sure what we are working towards.

According to them, there are a number of factors (they describe eight) to take into consideration in this vision-casting process. Here are my comments on / summary of the first one.

  • What skills will people (like our students!) entering your country’s workforce need to be successful? You may have to do a little research by asking leaders from a number of different industries (that may employ your school’s graduates) what they view as the most valuable skill set for an employee to have. Beware of trying to define these skills based on your experience – I think educators sometimes have strong biases that are not necessarily a reflection of what is happening outside the realm of education. You may also want to ask these leaders what skills are new employees lacking – this may be painful because it will possibly show us in what areas are we failing to prepare our students for the work force.

To do: Unless we task ourselves to do the research above, it is almost guaranteed that we are not going to do anything about it. So please go to your favorite task manager and task yourself to do research about your country’s workforce.

Please share your thoughts as comments below. Remember, the 4 C’s: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

To vision-filled, lifelong learning!

The journey begins …

I just bought a copy of The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education by Ken Kay and Valerie Greenhill on the recommendation of my Twitter Personal Learning Network (PLN). I also had the privilege of attending the Apple Leadership Workshop in Singapore recently, and the unplanned convergence of these two events has had a significant impact on my ideas about the integration of technology in education.

One of my tasks at Dalat International School is to assist teachers with the integration of educational technology in their curriculum. This year, an exciting development in this role is our school’s implementation of a 1-to-1 program using iPads in grades 9 – 12.

Now I have always enjoyed integrating various kinds of computer and Internet technology in my science classes because my gut feeling tells me these activities are more engaging than a lecture or worksheet. Informal observation and an action-research project have confirmed my hunch.

At the recent conference hosted by Apple, a question from one of the presenters caught me a little off-guard, i.e. “What is your school’s definition of learning?” Loaded question … reflect on that for a minute … does your school have one?

The attendees were also introduced to the SAMR and TPACK / TPCK frameworks for the integration of technology in education, and I realized the following: the abundance of technology tools that are available to teachers today necessitates an intentional evaluation of the pedagogical value (or not) of these tools if we want to maximize learning for our students and prepare them for the workplace. Using technology tools because of their novelty is a recipe for disaster …

Is it important to be this intentional? I think you will agree with me that school is about learning, not about entertaining our students with the newest technology. So yes, if I want to improve as a teacher (and model lifelong learning), it is important to know why and how to use educational technology in a pedagogically-sound way.

I hope that you will be willing to collaborate with me using this blog as our communication tool  to think of creative ideas that will encourage the development of critical thinking skills in our schools  Anyone is welcome to participate, no matter whether you are a teacher, student, parent, board member, or school leader. The only requirement is to do it in a respectful manner. I am going to use Kay and Greenhill’s book as well as Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model and Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK model to guide the conversation. So come back for more, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

To lifelong learning!

Ps. Read more about the 4 C’s (as highlighted in the last paragraph) at http://www.p21.org.

Good intentions

One of my professional goals for 2012 is to start blogging about my experiences in the fortress of education. To set the record straight, I am not blogging because everyone else is blogging. I find that my days are consumed by reading and responding to emails, and teaching and assessing my online students. There is very little time left for reflection, and that is not a good thing.

I tried to start this discipline in May 2012 when I attended The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education for the 21st Century, but I didn’t get very far … like the bicycle above. I am making a new start, here at the beginning of a new quarter in our school year. I hope that by setting aside a few minutes a week and blogging about some of the educational experiences I am having, it will help me to become a more reflective, a.k.a. better, teacher.

To lifelong learning!

Takeaways from the Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education v.2012 – Pre-conference

I have been blessed with the opportunity to represent Dalat at the second gathering of The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education for the 21st Century. It has been a fantastic time of networking and sharing of ideas. I thank God for placing this dream in Greg Bitgood and Mark Beadle’s hearts. It is helping me to look past my circumstances and see God’s heart for the nations. Praise God!

So here are some takeaways from the pre-conference:

  • Successful, educational innovation is a team effort. We need to create and encourage a climate that fosters team work and collaboration in our staff.
  • The virtual world is a real space, just as the spaces in our school buildings are real spaces. As Christian educators we must not ignore the influence this will have on the relationships and community formation of our schools as a whole.
  • Perhaps one of the most valuable topics we discussed (in my opinion) is teaching our constituents, i.e. students, parents, and teachers, the need for a digitally balanced life – especially if (depending on our setting) we live in a culture that is ‘Internet-gadget’ / ‘communication-device’ saturated. A great place to start is Dr. Jerry Thacker’s blog, http://jerrythacker.wordpress.com/.
  • Give students a voice. It doesn’t mean you have to do everything they ask for or necessary believe everything they say, but you may be able to glean some helpful ideas from them.