Starting out as a Mathematics and Computer science teacher, Kristy Lundström understands the impact effective technology and systematic thinking can have on learning. She has worked as a Head of School for more than 10 years in Sweden, Belgium and the US. In every school, she seeks to empower teachers, support students and build communities. Her philosophy can be summed up by her favourite hashtag: #unleashpotential
As a school leader, I find myself wondering how to best utilise the resources we have: time and money. What should I focus on? How can we use our staff time in the best way possible so that our teachers can be prepared to lead learning-filled classrooms? Which technologies should we invest in? Which areas of learning research and development should we focus on? There are so many choices and limited resources.
In June, I travelled to the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference in Chicago. Along with nearly 17,000 other eager participants, I spent three days in workshops, lectures, visiting the expo, networking with teachers from around the world and reflecting on how all of this new knowledge could empower the students in my organisation.
ISTE is so much more than a technology conference. It is a pedagogy conference. It was like a giant discussion of what works best when and where and how to implement best practices. Information, skills and experiences were shared in every direction. Check out #ISTE18 to see examples of what I mean. Or even better, check out #NOTatISTE18 to see what you missed.
During my visit, some trends became very obvious:
The idea of students of all ages learning how to code and program was being discussed at every level. The idea of computational thinking extends well beyond the Maths classroom. A whole body of activities aimed at teaching students how to think in a logic way to solve problems were introduced, discussed and tested.
Further read: Students build coding skills block by block.
2. Professional development
Everyone was asking “how can we train our teaching force to be ‘ready’?” I noticed that in many settings, teachers were referred to as “learners”, and that professional development was no longer about workshops and lectures. It was more about professional learning where teachers had embedded training often administered in a need-to-know, personalised way. I could hear from many of the participants that “technology coaches” had now been replaced with “learning coaches”.
Further read: Great example of “shifting” to professional learning.
Very trendy in the gadget world, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are now becoming accessible and “buildable” by teachers and students. Finally, the price is right and the possibilities are endless.
Further read: Check out Google Tour Builder.
This body of research is now leading the choices we make in Instructional Design. How students take in information, remember and connect important ideas, spacing, chunking, looping - all technical terms for how we can more effectively organise learning in our classrooms.
Further reading: The Learning Scientists blog.
5. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The thought of robots in the classroom scared many people a few years ago. Today, teachers and administrators are starting to embrace the idea of an assistant. Many schools were talking about how they were piloting Alexa and Echo in the classrooms to answer routine questions. In addition, there were multiple examples of how AI when integrated with our digital teaching material could help tailor the learning path for just that student.
Further read: 7 Roles for AI in Education.
6. Design Thinking
Another trend evident throughout the conference was the idea of creating, designing and making ideas grow. Entrepreneurial thinking, idea-to-action and design lessons and activities were evident in many workshops. On a district-wide and state level, the discussions were focused on how to shift this exciting trend and problem-based way of working from electives and one time projects to a more systematic and integrated part of every classroom at every level.
Further investigation: My favourite speaker at ISTE was @thetechrabbi. Follow him on Twitter for great inspiration.
No longer is it about being careful who you connect with; the trends were much more about how to make your connections work for you.
“The focus is moving away from warning students about online risks or trying to curtail their activities and toward helping them leverage the power of digital media to work toward creation, social justice and equity. The new digital citizenship, also reflected in the ISTE Standards for Students, is about being in community with others and creating digital citizenship curricula that shows students possibilities over problems, opportunities over risks and community successes over personal gain.” - from Julie Randles
Further Read: Check out Be Internet Awesome with Google.
8. Personalised, student-driven, blended, instructional design
Many different words all baked into one idea... empowering the student to take charge of their own learning. How teachers design the learning activities, build the (face-to-face and online) environment, and manage the learning time determine the when, where and how our students will learn. No longer is it a pie-in-the-sky dream to personalise and tailor for each kid. With the right methods and tools, this is finally becoming a reality.
So, back to my original questions:
How can we use our staff time in the best way possible so that our teachers can be best prepared to lead learning-filled classrooms?
Model best learning practices - personalised, embedded, just-in-time learning
Which technologies should we invest in?
Across our organisation, our major investment is a powerful LMS. This is sort of our epicentre for learning. Other than that, tools that my teachers request and believe in. If they have a plan for how it will help their students learn more, I want to hear about it and try to make it happen.
Which areas of learning research and development should we focus on?
Brain-based science and motivational psychology … and, yes, edtech tools that can help us implement best practices.
These are the trends I am thinking about. What are you focused on?
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As a school leader, I know that the key to any student’s success is often their teacher. If this is true, would having two teachers mean double the chance of success? We decided to test this idea in a reorganization of the Business Studies programme at VRG. Working from our strategic vision, we began to brainstorm, prioritize and plan.
Learning is learning.
And good instructional design is key.
What’s good for students is good for teachers.
We are all learners.
During the past 20 years, I have been privileged to participate in some great professional development programmes. And some, not so great. I have led professional development where the teachers responded really positively and we saw direct impact on student learning. And some, not so much.