October 05, 2007

ULearn07 Endnote: Tony Ryan on making it happen

Tony_ryan When you go to educational conferences you can feel completely overwhelmed and, despite all the great things you do, you can feel that you'll never be good enough. We mustn't feel this. It eats our souls.

Serendipitous is as measurable as the planned
So, as we head out of this conference Tony Ryan is keen that we find a sustainable way of continuing and building on what we have learned. It's quite a nice round up, taking off from the questions I posed at the end of my keynote, especially regarding sustainable use of our time to develop new projects. Tony seems to think that serendipity is unmeasurable - note to self, and others: it doesn't have to be. It's a question of adapting not just our teaching but our measuring tools as we go: formative and summative.

That said, it's also vital not to let serendipitous activity take over from the need for structure within the period of learning, à la assessment for learning.

Supporting existing practices?
It's also making me think about how new practices might support existing practices or, in fact, start pushing some older practices off the edge of the counter, to be replaced by better ones. There's an assumption in "how is this conference going to support existing great practices" that we're going to continually add to our practice, but this, surely, is what is going to burn us out in the end.

Professional dialogue for student attainment
Here, I really agree with Tony. Professional dialogue is the most important element of improving the education in our classrooms. Tony has an interesting analogy for teachers. Whereas CEOs in the corporate world have their life coaches, what do teachers have? Every teacher, as a top level professional, really does need their own life coache or, in language I would prefer, mentors. As a student teacher I had some great mentors, but now I have none with whom I meet on a regular basis to just talk about what I might do. I'd appreciate it; would you?

This is where educators and policymakers regularly scrap x% of their curriculum or workload with the aim of refreshing it. It's like cutting roses back to nothing in winter to make them flourish in summer. I like the idea, because I do it in my job every year. But would most schools feel comfortable doing this?

Private_garden_girl Creativity? What about ingenuity?
Tony believes creativity "is 'it', just inspiring, is the colour in your black and white life". Thing is, it's hard to see where the traditional role of a teacher would fit into the creativity we see in a piece of work like this. Serendipity is a pre-requisite, establishing goals is open-ended (what was the lesson objective here?) and creativity isn't enough - we see a kid being truly ingenious.

Ingenuity, not just creativity, is what will lead certain individuals beyond their current capacity. It was Stephen Heppell who got me thinking like this, and plenty more besides. Do you agree?


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Yes, mentors for teachers. Suddenly I have to think in very concrete terms about this as you know. And I'm trying to work out a feasible system. One person could not mentor more than a handful of people at a time. This means a very large number of mentors are needed. Danish teachers would say 'where is the time in my timetable to do this?' as they did to me last Friday.

Serendipitous is a great sounding word. It is appropriate at this time because you Ewan are just across the Tasman Sea (so close and yet so far) while I have not met you I have been a constant ever since visiting Scotland and meeting many of your colleagues earlier this year.
You have now met Tony (serendipity) whom I have known for nigh on 20 years,he has had an influence and impact on helping me move educators and manage mindset changes. He has been part of our planned approach to developing the climate of continual learning that now pervades our school culture.

Tony can be inspiring and is a great people person. Good that you've met him.

I agree we have to be clever in what we change and how we adapt. That has to be part of the role of the leader, be smart, give permission to let go, to take a risk and be proud if it comes off and reflect about how it might work better next time if it doesn't. That's where mentors are so important. They are the ones to whom you can talk and discuss ways of doing things differently or better next time. Mentoring is a vital part of the change structure that exists in our school.

Having sound scaffolds in place ensures the roses each year will be different and more beautiful.

All the creativity in the world would come to nothing without ingenuity.

Sounds like things are going well for you in NZ, Ewan. Interesting stuff all round! More power to your baby-cradling elbow! :-)

Hi Ewan and others. Great Keynote Wednesday, and also I agree with comments re: Tony's final Keynote. It was a great way to have us start to focus on setting a goal to implement or change 1 or 2 things as we re-enter the classroom Monday. It really always is a overwhelming amount of info and ideas and affirmation we all get at ULearn and Tony givng us a debrief - focusing us on trying to identify one thing we will put into place certainly helped crystallise the ideas. Keep up the blogging and hope you enjoy your second week here in NZ. I know you have a 6 week old, but hopefully you will get up at 8am to watch the All Blacks beat France tomorrow morning!!

Kia Ora Ewan,
I really enjoyed your message to us all at the ULearn07 conference and as a starting out ICT lead teacher at my school I was really overwhelmed by it all. There were products and programmes I'd heard about or seen in action but some of the items you discussed really intrigued me. In particular the language dancing mats buzzed me out, I want one! I teach in a Māori-medium Junior class and started to visualize my students dancing away (as they LOVE dancing)- which I know will happen one day!Could you tell me how to get one, but probably more importantly, how I can configure one to the Māori Language? I haven't seen anything here yet (unless you know of somewhere?). Having never blogged before I came home and set up by own blog on blogger.com and one for my class as I want the kids to have a wider audience, learning in Te Reo makes our audience very limited. It took me 40 minutes so I was rapt, lets see how we go - http://rumatui.blogspot.com (my class blog) and http://ketewhakaaro.blogspot.com (my blog). Thanks for the inspiration.

Hi Ewan, I know I can create something ingeniously and I think it is wrong to suggest that teachers may not inspire such outcomes as the example shown. I don't ingene things creatively though.

cheers Andy Preston

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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