Saturday, August 23, 2008

First week back in Qatar: Haze and Daze and the Bridge to Success

After a month (almost) on the Gold Coast in Australia, coming back to the haze, heat and humidity of Doha is a bit of a shock. But not for long! There is so much to do and so little time to do, nose to the grindstone, and full steam ahead with the new school year.

What's new in Qatar? Well, for a start, the bridge on our compound linking Education City Community Housing Lot 1 with Lot 2 is now officially open (no more climbing over the barrier) so, as an early morning activity (and I mean early morning to try and beat the heat) we have been walking around the paths, through the gardens and over the bridge.

ECCH Bridge 1
The Bridge between ECCH Lot 1 and Lot 2

Sunrise from ECCH bridge
Sunrise from the Bridge looking across the compound housing

I have been thinking about this bridge as a metaphor for my experiences in Qatar so far. This time last year I arrived to a challenging teaching load and administration responsibility, I also arrived with a container full of mouldy belongings due to a shipping mishap. The year did not start well, the bridge was not completed then but we thought, a couple of months and we will be on it. As time went on the bridge took shape, as did my role at Qatar Academy. Finally the bridge was finished, but not opened! Towards the end of last academic year we could not work out why not...perhaps it is a test of patience, a trial of our ability to still want to get somewhere by having to walk around the long way and cross hurdles designed to impede progress.

Now, the bridge is open, I have assumed a full administrative role within the school, as a team my colleagues and I are focused on providing e-learning opportunities for teachers and students and we have already seen the start of many positive changes on campus that will support a move to 21st century pedagogy using online learning and mobile computing. I invite you to walk over this bridge with me, to enjoy the view into the dessert, the sunrise, the adventure as another year starts to unfold here in the middle east. I have lots of ideas and things to write about, if I can just get through the 'daze' of being back at work. I also have some exciting news to share (coming soon!) and amazing projects, including the Flat Classroom Project 2008, have already started, or are in progress.

So, let's get started!
You must read this amazing post by Andrew Churches,
21st Century Pedagogy. I had the pleasure and honour of meeting Andrew (a New Zealander) at NECC08 in San Antonio this year. Andrew is also infamous for his writings on Blooms Digital Taxonomy.
The pedagogy post starts with this -
"Even if you have a 21st Century classroom, flexible and adaptable; even if you are a 21st Century teacher ; An adapter, a communicator, a leader and a learner, a visionary and a model, a collaborator and risk taker; even if your curriculum reflects the new paradigm and you have the facilities and resources that could enable 21st century learning – you will only be a 21st century teacher if how we teach changes as well. Our pedagogy must also change."

Andrew goes on to say -
"How we teach must reflect how our students learn, it must also reflect the world they will emerge into. This is a world that is rapidly changing, connected, adapting and evolving. Our style and approach to teaching must emphasise the learning in the 21st century.."

I agree Andrew, and I would add also that change for the sake of change is not the goal (I have been to enough leadership sessions to have a grasp of this). We need to change our pedagogical approach to improve learning outcomes, to make a difference to the way students view and interact with the world, to make the world a better place to live in overall.

I believe education is the door, developing 21st century approaches to pedagogy is the key to open that door. We are so close, yet in many instances so far from having this key and being able to effectively share this key. Let's keep the discussion alive and growing. I certainly will this year!

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