December 29, 2007

Annual Learning Log: what does it tell us where to go next?

 I've spent some time this past week putting together an annual reflection, which ended up centring around five areas:

1/5: Hit or miss? Spotting innovation that's worth spotting
2/5: The changing ways of the public sector
3/5: eduBuzz: East Lothian online publishing increases 5000%
4/5: Building a business
5/5: Having a bash - social media gets social

For me, it's been worthwhile in clarifying some of what I feel I can contribute over the next year. Here's what I can see happening over these five areas in the next year or so:

Turning innovations into ubiquitous practice:
Many of the innovations spotted earlier this year have yet to hit mainstream classrooms or businesses. In the case of Scottish education, I think we need to make a concerted effort to learn from these new tools to nuance our existing ones, especially in the national intranet, Glow. We might even have to start talking to their creators to see if they would be interested in widgetising just for us (with the carrot of other VLEs and intranets to conquer thereafter).

Showing change really is innovative:
Over the past year I've used a lot of tools. I despise those who play them down with something along the lines of "all the rage this year, but will it be around in 2009?". It doesn't matter. It's what we learn from these tools, however transient they may be, that is important.

However, there is still a need for more research and action research to make a case for the emerging practices which emerging technologies bring around. There's also a need for much more prevalence to be given to this work by national education agencies the world over, and by initial teacher education institutes, whose efforts to work with new technologies are handicapped by the attitudes of younger new teachers and simplistic attitudes of those longer in the tooth that "new teachers get all this already". They may understand how to hold the new pencils, but they don't all know how to write with them yet, let alone teach others how to.

Robust research is needed to make an intelligent case where one is there to be made.

Changing ways faster with frameworks:
Both business and education still lack a coherent example of togetherness when it comes to attitudes to online literacy, or media literacy in its wider sense. I'm working on some outlines for business which take their lead from educational practice, outlines which have proven very successful with some clients already. However, the educational understanding of media literacy still doesn't place enough importance on the digital element, and there is still far too much ignorance in the highest echelons of our establishments for anything transformative to work its way into the classroom. I think it's Learning and Teaching Scotland's job to do that, and we've already started our plans to put digital literacy firmly on the map this coming year.

The changing face of professional development
Companies need to realise that they have to be learning machines if they are to thrive into the next decade; those working in education need to realise that it's not just students who need to study. However, the social mechanisms we have worked on this past two years clearly work when it comes to showing teachers new methods and tools, and getting them to use them effectively in the long term. There'll be plenty more live events this year to bring more educators together to talk about what they do.


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It all sounds wonderful, Ewan, and you are to be congratulated on a great year riding the wave. Your observation about companies needing to be learning machines is valid and applies to all people organisations, including education. It's the constant change of evolution which has brought us to where we are. Without innovation and the freedom to adapt the change, extinction is increasingly likely.

Half of the Local Authorities in Scotland have shown no interest in Glow and over 80% have not started bringing it to the classroom (source: this). Corporate squeamishness prevents even the most fundamental access to the Web to support innovation; teachers are driven to minimums by staffing cuts and have CPD time squandered on ticky box activities by managers, preventing the innovation we need. The unions are against the revolution, too (this nonsense, for example).

The kind of revolution we need in schools has to be in their leadership. Without that, as you say, it ain't happening in the classroom, so it ain't happening.

The Unions are, in Scotland, not saying what the NASUWT is saying (and the NASUWT, although my Union for the moment, is tiny in Scotland and wildly off the mark with this one). I have found the EIS, for example, incredibly level-headed and approachable when it comes to the issues we're talking about.

Nick - your reading of Laurie O'Donnell's update on Glow is entirely misplaced. The fact that half of the LAs in Scotland have signed the Customer Agreement simply does not indicate that: "...half of the Local Authorities in Scotland have shown no interest in Glow and over 80% have not started bringing it to the classroom."

In fact, every single LA in Scotland is still fully on board with the Glow project - the customer agreement is a necessary piece of legal bureaucracy that will, I am absoluetly sure, eventually be signed by all 32 authorities. In the meantime, however, the planning and implementation on the ground is going on apace across the whole country. This, of course, is happening at different paces, but that was always going to be the case - indeed, the process was planned on that basis! It is simply a reflection of the political reality of how education in Scotland is structured and managed.

Fron the beginning, we knew that each authority would plan and implement Glow, with advice and support from the joint LTS/RM national team, at their own pace and in their own way. There will not be one implementation of Glow but rather 32 implementations.

As for the 80% who, according to you, have not started bringing it to the classroom as yet - the full roll-out is only starting now. It would completely misrepresent the process to pick a point just a few weeks into the final phase of implementation and criticise the process for being incomplete. The process will take at least another year and, for some authorities, might take longer. But that is entirely up to them.

Having said that, your point about the nature of leadership is a valid one.

Fair comment, John: half of me is a maths teacher and that's the half (let's call him "Hyde") which abused the statistics. However, we need to be clear that this is not a process which, from the rhetoric, all of Scotland is undertaking: I have it on good authority that at least one LA feels that what they have is better than what Glow offers and there is no rationale to move to it, now or any time soon.

Some of us will have to deliver the curriculum from behind a ferocious firewall controlled by those not in education and without the services and advantages of Glow or any other equivalent.

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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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