Take the time to check out Dr Julia Atkin and her thinking around spaces and resources. The fabulous team at Grow Waitaha has compiled this video guide to support thinking around this topic.
“If there has been one lesson learnt about innovating education, it is that teachers, schools and local administrators should not just be involved in the implementation of educational change but they should have a central role in its design.” Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills.
Love this quote! If we want real change in our schools, it's vital that the people who are passionate about excellence and transformation are at the heart of planning for this.
The OECD has recently issued a new publication - The OECD Handbook for Innovative Learning Environments. This follows on from their awesome ILE publications that have been released over the past few years. There are practical tools and ideas to support schools to further develop and enhance teaching and learning.
Here's the blurb:
You can access the handbook online here.
And a great summary blog post introducing the key ideas from the OECD blog.
Loving this new resource from the fabulous team who run the inclusive education site as part of TKI. They have created an amazing resource to support the development of innovative learning environments that work for ALL learners.
The resource highlights that "Sensitivity to individual differences and learner variability must be a driver for decisions relating to pedagogy, practice, and design of flexible spaces. The guide emphasises the need to plan in partnership with students, teachers, parents, and experts. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles underpin the approach, recognising and supporting the learning and wellbeing of all students."
Take some time to explore the different aspects. There is just a wealth of resources, links, videos etc. Content curation at it's best!
You can also download the summary of the content site - could be a good resource to refer to to help plan out areas you wish to explore further.
So it is Summer Break here in New Zealand. Christmas and New Year is done and dusted once more! Of course, Summer will fly by and before we know it, teachers will start heading to school to get organised for their new classes! In a few short weeks schools will be buzzing with excited students (and parents). So what is going to be your focus for 2016?
Whenever I would head back into the empty school in January, I was always struck by two things. 1 - the quiet and 2 - the pile of "stuff" that I hadn't quite managed to deal with in the rush of finishing the previous year! It was always a great time to reflect on the successes and challenges of the past and to start thinking about the year ahead. As learning centred educators, we are always engaging in this natural form of "teaching as inquiry." Thinking about what engaged our learners and was successful so we know what to do more of, but also thinking about what wasn't working well so we know where to improve.
So to get you started, here are a few of thoughts about what is worth spending your precious time on as you start a new year.
1) Your collaborative relationships.
Do you have a new co-teacher? Are you co-teaching for the first time? Do you have new people coming onto your teaching team? However you are organised and even if you are working with the same people, it is key that you put in the time to find out about each other, your strengths and skills and plan for the way you will work together.
The fantastic Steve Mouldey(@GeoMouldey) has put this resource on The Pond - a questionnaire for getting to know your co-teacher. (PDF copy at the end of this post.) It could easily be adapted to a variety of settings. Also if you're not on The Pond or the Virtual Learning Network,maybe this is the year to join and start exploring some of the awesome resources and discussions that are on there!
2) Student Voice
Getting to know your new students and gathering student voice and input is key to establishing authentic positive relationships quickly. How will you quickly access information about your students' opinions, ideas and strengths? Is this maybe an opportunity to get rid of some of those tired first week of school activities and to try something different?
3 Organising your virtual space
Have you had a tidy up of your virtual space? If you are reusing parts of it ( and hopefully you are if it is a site or weebly ) have you checked for out of date information, archived old student work that is no longer needed and fixed broken links? Make sure you're working smart - moved rooms? You may just need to change your site address or class twitter handle.
4. Organising your learning environment
Here's a job to take off your list NOW! This is not your job! This is one of your learners' jobs! Sure, you might have some furniture to quickly move and a couple of posters to put up, but this is no longer your responsibility! I remember spending days setting up and rearranging my classroom furniture, but in the past few years it's been all on my kids! Once again - ditch that " All about me" poster and get the kids involved in setting up spaces for their learning. Document the journey and create a resource for the class. These blog posts have some ideas for starting out! CEM #2, Just like Starting Over
4. Start Scanning
From Day 1, this is the time to start thinking about Teaching as Inquiry for 2016. In the scanning phase of Spirals of Inquiry, we need to be genuinely curious about our learners and to stay open to all kinds of new information and insights. I often find that in these early days, you might spot something that leads to a "hunch" that may need further investigation as the year progresses. Just keep it on your radar.
5. Improve One Thing
Challenge yourself to make an improvement with one thing. Maybe your reading programme needs a revamp? Does your school have a professional development focus in a learning area that you could build on? Maybe you are never making it outside with the students to fitness? You might want to ask better questions. But just pick one area that you know needs improvement and focus some energy on that.
6. Try One New Thing
Ok, so number 5 features improving something that you already do. But what about trying one NEW thing? Maybe this is the year you become a tweeter. Maybe you've always wanted to write a blog? You might want to try students running their own learning workshops as part of your classroom programme? Seek some support from your colleagues if necessary - perhaps someone is a whizz at GAFE and you really want to upskill. Model being a learner in front of your students.
7. Set a self-care goal.
Don't burn out in the first three weeks! Remember to take care of yourself too! Teaching is one wild ride! Don't sweat the small stuff and focus on what's important - those excited kids coming through the doors ready to learn! Good luck!
Used with acknowledgement and cited below:
Introduction/ Executive Summary
The future that we face today is unknown. Often we are surprised! Mistakes and failures will happen and it is important that we fully understand these to create a context for learning and growth.
The world no longer rewards people for what they know. Being able to extrapolate from what we know and apply learning to new and novel situations is key. Creativity and Innovation are required.
Education is now more about ways of thinking,communicating and collaborating, using technology well and the development of social and emotional skills.
It will be more important to be a VERSATILIST - able to apply a depth of skill to a wide range of situations, capable of changing and adapting at a rapid pace and being able to reposition oneself in fast paced environments.
The focus is shifting from individual achievements, to acknowledging the power of collaboration to support innovation and development.
The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey found that 2/3 of teachers said their schools were "hostile to innovation." Innovative Learning Environments still remain the exception, not the rule.
Drivers for change include the penetration of technology, employer's interest in education, global connections and new learning providers.
Page 12, 13 of Executive Summary - A Learning System that that has a thoroughly integrated ILE framework will have:
Education has become more and more important world wide. Driver of this is economic and based around education's role in maintaining competitiveness in the world. Global interdependence has fuelled comparative measures. These have led to pressures to reform education.
Key issues - engagement of students, especially teenagers, perceived role of teachers in society and the value placed on the profession, slow pace of change in education, systemic change needed rather than isolated innovation.
Learning systems extend well beyond schools and to enact change, we must look beyond the traditional partners and structures.
Page 18/19 - Framework for ILE: The 7+3 model.
Page 20 - The C's! Common features of ILE strategies and Initiatives
Time - system change takes TIME. Time for relationship building, connections and interaction.
A system transformation - there will have been a matching shift in educator's views, knowledge and practice. Widespread use of social media and technology. Culture of evaluative thinking and self-review. Distributed leadership. Evidence based decisions.
What kinds of broader changes and conditions are needed in order for the "7+3" to become commonplace features of learning systems?
What will the indicators be?
1)Reduce Standardisation, Foster Innovation, Broaden Institutions.
Standard rules and procedures should not be barriers to innovation.
Allow for non-formal learning opportunities, both face to face and in online communities.
2) Accountability and Metrics for 21st century learning.
Page 25/26 - ALL these messages are key!
3)Promoting leadership, trust and learner agency.
Effective, distributed leadership is critical.
Learners must be active partners in their learning establishment's design, curriculum and decision making.
High trust environments and connectedness with all stake holders.
4)Widespread collaborative expert professionalism.
5) Ubiquitous Professional Learning.
Professional development opportunities in evaluation and evaluative thinking.
The real and virtual environments inhabited by teachers should be conducive to professional exchange and dialogue.
6) Connectivity and extensive digital infrastructure.
7) Flourishing cultures of networks and partnerships.
Horizontal connection and collaboration.
8) Powerful knowledge systems and cultures of evaluation.
There needs to be a culture of diagnostic expertise and evaluation.
Indicators of the widespread adoption of the ILE framework:
Chapter 3: Promising Strategies for spreading ILE's
From studies of 26 countries:
Culture change: more important than surface change, but much more difficult to realise.
Clarifying Focus: Don't have too many things going on at once. Innovate, but remain focused. Doing the "same old" has not improved student achievement and quality.
Capacity Creation: Knowledge and Professional Learning. Generate knowledge about student learning and how that knowledge will be acted upon.
Collaboration and Co-operation: Collaborative professionalism is necessary for innovation.Professional Learning Networks are key.
Communication and Technology Platforms - supporting the development of an ILE.
Change Agents: people who are able to provide influence on the ground and provide the expertise and drive to maintain innovation.
Chapter 4: Growing Innovative Learning through Meso - Level networking.
Chapter 5: Transformation and Leadership in Complex Learning Systems.
I'm always asked about "getting started" with modern learning practices. Here's a video from Edutopia that has some quite nice beginning stuff! A little bit cheesy, but a good intro.
So, we are making progress on our classroom set up for 2015!
We got a few of the furniture items on the kid's wishlist, though not their longed for bar height table and stools. We've been doing pretty well with a longer, lower table that the kids love. Bean bags, knee boards and mini couches are also being widely used in the zone. It is nice to have a mix of soft and hard furnishings.
We now have an Interactive White Board in one zone and a portable tv on a height adjustable trolley has just arrived. We had much debate about creating a "focal point" in the classroom and whether we wanted to do this. So, we have kind of compromised with having the IWB create a focal point in one zone and having the portable tv which we can move anywhere to create different learning areas as required.
Our stuff is still in boxes and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of teacher storage. Bag storage is still to arrive. But we are DEFINITELY getting there! The kids overwhelmingly prefer this space to their old spaces and relievers coming in have commented how great it is.
In terms of Collaborative Teaching, it is definitely a great space to work in. We are really enjoying it and loving the "rooms within rooms" feel that we have. Hoping by the end of term we are all unpacked and a little more organised, but definite progress!!
It was great to pay a visit to Halswell School, Canterbury this week. They invited our staff to come by for a visit. It is looking amazing and soon all areas of the school will be ready for use. It was lovely to wander through and chat with their teachers. They too are experimenting, trialling and learning unique ways to use their new learning centres. Check out a few pics below! Thanks for having us, Halswell!!
So, it's the start of another new year here in New Zealand. I wonder what most would think if greeted with this sight!
Yes - we did it! We put every piece of furniture in our school into the school hall at the end of 2014!!! The reasons were twofold. We needed to do some maintenance- carpet cleaning and painting and we needed to redistribute our furniture.
This is our 6th year of opening and already in that time, our use of our spaces has changed significantly. Also, as we have grown, new furniture has been purchased and maybe some spaces had more furniture than others, or it would have been better suited to a different year level.
So, we are starting the year with the bare minimum and working with our students to decide what they really want in their learning zones.
This year, I am team teaching in a cool new space! Old style prefabs that have been refurbished. There's going to be a lot to do to set them up. Here's a couple of pics from the last day of school last year.
So it's still a bit of a mess, but these photos show you the evolving space! Sorry the pics aren't great - the rest had kids in them.
Now, here we are two weeks in!
You can see we have started to bring in some furniture! The kids have been busy planning what else we would like. Absolute top of the list is a tall whiteboard table with bar stools. It was interesting that they weren't interested in low white board tables at all. They also want bean bags and a few other tables that they know are over in the hall.
We have a interactive white board and large screen tv on a trolley coming, but I have to say it is challenging teaching without a projector and all we have at the moment is our little teaching station. (First world problems I know!!) But we are getting there.
Discoveries: The students have an excellent knowledge now of how to use spaces and firm ideas about the design of this new space. It was great on the first day, when the students were asked to find somewhere to work, they immediately spread out throughout the whole area. They had lots of ideas for our furniture choices.
About myself - I have struggled not having "my stuff" close by. We still have most of our things in boxes until we get storage and it's a pain!!
Wonderings: I still don't like the way tote trays and bag storage take up SO much of the learning space. At the moment we have bags stacked all over the floor. Eventually we will have cubes for them. We had hoped to maybe have bags outside, but too costly as we would have to weather proof. It seems such a waste! Would love to have some better ideas than tote trays. I have seen some schools use containers, but even they take up a lot of room. Will keep thinking!
Stay tuned for Part 2, when the kids choices arrive.
Libraries have been coming up a lot for me lately! Firstly, at school I spent a couple of afternoons moving our library into a room off our hall, to make way for our rapid student growth. I'm actually a little jealous, as now our library is home to two of our new entrant classes and it makes a wonderful collaborative space. In the short term, our library will be housed in our drama room. Meanwhile, we are looking at creative ways of keeping our library as a hub in our school. Stay tuned!
Then in the holidays, I visited the new library that has been built in Lincoln, a community about ten minutes away and part of our Selwyn Council network of libraries. I loved the space and creative use of furniture. The day I visited, the library was buzzing with members of the community involved in various activities. ( See slideshow below.)
My mother is now a primary school librarian, having spent the majority of her career as a high school librarian. She passed on to me the latest issue of " Collected" magazine, the magazine of the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa. This issue focuses on modern learning environments, the role and place of the library and librarian.
So I felt that the universe was sending me a sign that it is about time for a library post!
After reading through the " Collected" issue it became apparent that librarians and libraries are facing major challenges. They are looking at a major redefinition of their role and place within education. I thought I would summarise the main messages, though recommend reading the whole magazine here if you wish.
Lisa Salter, Communications Leader had this to say; "I can be a librarian wherever I am, I don't need a library to identify myself. A traditional librarian was connected to a place, librarian = library. Now a library is a state of mind; physical, digital, social, communal. Adapting has become one of our specialties." As many schools ponder the need for a traditional library space, Salter points out that schools without libraries are in even more need of an experienced librarian. " An MLE must enable itself to provide modern approaches to inquiry learning and in doing so must rely on advice from information professionals in planning and practice."
Bridget Schaumann, SLANZA President urges schools to make their libraries spaces for literacy, discovery and inquiry. Paula Eskett and Janet McFadden of National Library encourage rethinking restrictive practices, what has been "always done" and putting user's needs first. They urge schools to develop MLLE's ( Modern Learning Library Environments) where "print and digital resources meet…..creating user driven, proactive, constantly evolving participatory spaces that support and reflect the education world all educators are now part of."
Quoting the fabulous Christian Long - "The focus of innovative learning spaces is never about the building. It's what the building enables users to do."
Mark Osborne of Core Education outlines ways in which libraries are evolving - service centres for digital citizenship and information literacy, gallery spaces, community hubs and storehouses for valuable resources. He challenges schools to ask, "How might the library act as a 'third place' to provide unique, compelling and engaging experiences for staff, students and community that aren't offered elsewhere."
How is your school using their library? How do we ensure that we maintain all the tradtional "good" things that libraries brought to education, while developing them into vibrant, vital, flexible hubs of learning?
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.