Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's Worth Fighting For in Your School?

[cross-posted at Dangerously Irrelevant as guest blogger for Dr Scott McLeod]

Change is a process in a school. Change is neither good nor bad but just is. Rapid change can cause discomfort and upset. No change can also cause discomfort and upset. Any educational institution that is not going through some form of change right now is possible missing the boat, or at least missing the opportunity to create their own boat and sail on the sea of individualized, student-centered, technology embedded learning.


In the international school world change often comes in measured doses lasting for the length of a contract (2 years minimum usually). Change can be personality driven, more rapid and possibly more adhoc in this realm of education given the desire of individuals to want to make their mark and then move onto another international school and start the process again. For the vast majority of expatriate teachers the results of visionary new programs and curriculum implementations will not be fully seen by the instigators, as they will be long gone, with new teachers and administrators in place trying to move forward with an altered vision, a newly tweaked plan and new enthusiasm. This is not abnormal and yet it can be frustrating for the school as a whole as programs come and go and initiatives are sparked and then put out.

A colleague lent me a book last week called "What's worth fighting for in your school?" Published in 1996, it talks about the culture of a school and transforming schools into better places. It got me thinking about how teaching can be a lonely profession and that building the culture of collaboration is a challenge. It also got me to thinking about how now, 12 years later, what has changed are the tools that we now use to foster collaboration but not necessarily the conditions under which collaboration, risk-taking and change can successfully take place. So what are these essential conditions for success within a school that are worth fighting for in the environment of 21st century learning?

At a recent conference, the ECIS / ISTE IT Leadership conference, in Prague other IT leaders along with ISTE leaders Don Knezek and Lynn Nolan, discussed essential conditions for successful change and how these can be extrapolated into a leadership action plan. This is my summary/interpretation and what I think is worth fighting for in my school:
  • A shared vision: what has shifted in education over the past five years and how has technology advanced and supported this? Proactive leadership can bring together a school community to share a vision for transforming learning.
  • Strategic planning: systemic and aligned with a shared vision for school effectiveness and student learning through the infusion of technology and digital resources
  • Understanding learning and leading in a digital age: It is through better understanding of how learners have changed, how the learning environment has changed, how the curriculum has changed that we can best plan for effective reform across the school
  • Professional learning communities: now this is one I am already fighting for. Encouraging conversations, supporting adoption of new techniques, encouraging sharing of ideas, resources and best-practice
  • One-to-one computing: mobility and ubiquity is the only way to go but this needs to be supported through funding for devices and for professional development. Not everyone yet sees the value in having a computing tool in hand
  • Online learning community: for students, for teachers, for administrators and for the wider school community. This can be fostered through supporting technologies including Web 2.0 tools. However the tool is insignificant (to an extent), it is the interaction and potential for continuous improvement and perpetual learning that is the ultimate promise here
  • Team-based professional development: Social learning and community-based exploration of new ideas for learning
  • Sustainability: OK, this is a big one. We need to build in sustainability so that valid programs are able to survive leadership and other changes. At the same time we need to build in flexibility so that plans can be tweaked if needed to cater for changing technologies, local emphasis etc.
I was reminded coincidently today of a video a student in my class in Bangladesh created for the Horizon Project 2007. If you overlook some poor technical quality, ESL spelling and grammar and actually absorb the message this video has a lot to say about change, where we have come from with educational technology and where we could be going. Called 'The Future is Now', it was part of the 'User created content' section of the project.



From the book again:
"What is worth fighting for is not to allow our organizations to be negative by default but to make them positive by design"

What do you think is worth fighting for in your school?

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1 comment:

eve said...

i would fight for the chance to embrace change as a journey, without knowing the destination, to let new worlds emerge, to always be a learner and remember to play.