Looking Forward, Because We Should

Well, that was a year wasn’t it! A year when all the charlatans who claim to predict the future slunk away quietly with their tails between their legs because, of course, none of them had this marked out as such an extreme anus horribilis across the world.

Today isn’t the time for digging deep in to the injustices of how the world has responded to the pandemic – I’ve got another post I’m writing on that for another day. Inevitably, the overwhelming message of professional writers, friends and colleagues is New Year messages of positively looking forward whilst writing off the last year as just simply awful.

Against that background I can’t help but feel some degree of guilt when counting my blessings from 2020. Yes, it was a year of enormous challenges and sadness for so many, including my family, friends and colleagues. It was a year when so many saw dreams and life goals shattered or at least put on ice to be reassessed later.

Maybe the biggest part of my own reservation is tied to the fact that despite a pandemic, an almost complete curtailment of international travel and other factors I was offered a new job that was a phenomenal match with what I was looking for. It enables me to return to what I love doing most – working to build teams that turn good schools in to better and even great schools. The process of getting recruited to go to a country I’d never even visited before had its own challenges (again, the subject of another post in the pipeline).

In the first half of the year all this looked unlikely. I was in Malaysia and the first arrival of the virus and one of the most draconian lockdowns had a massive impact. For close to three months I met nobody I knew face to face, stayed in my apartment and headed out just once every ten days to queue to enter the supermarket or pharmacy. There were days when I felt utterly cheated – how could the world wait until the moment when i was most ready to re-mount the horse, only to remove all horses, paddocks and even scrubby fields from view.

However, compared with most I had a secret weapon – the internal strength built over the previous two years in response to traumas in my personal life. There is a saying that is something to the effect that your scars make you stronger because the new skin that grows over them is tougher. The reality for me was that these months gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about myself and to test and challenge the life resolve I had been building. I kept busy. I walked over 100,000 steps a week, almost all inside my apartment. I set rigid daily routines for myself. I read, I wrote and from time to time i volunteered to do free work helping teacher training organisations or with education webinars.

This doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared, both for myself and others. We all had to deal with the massive uncertainty of it all. Ironically, if someone had told us in March that the pandemic would still be torturing the world at the end of the year we’d have been devastated. Maybe it was better we didn’t know. I’m actually a fairly high risk person for the virus because of a lung surgery about fifteen years ago. That could also have been a reason for feeling cheated when I had worked so hard over the years to work back to better health and thought I had put that challenge behind me. I have elderly relatives for whom I worry, as so many others do.

So, I take nothing away from others’ pain and sense of tragedy that so many share looking backwards. But, this New Year’s eve I also count my blessings and am truly thankful for the opportunities that life has given me. I don’t take them lightly. In the meantime, I wish a very Happy New Year to all readers and positive wishes for all your tomorrows. I think we’ll need to be patient, but there will be better times ahead – times when more can aspire to fulfill their life goals

Teaching Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic: Academic Perspectives

Here’s a quick share.

I came across this freely available research digest that ought to be very useful for educators, both regard to the specific topic of education’s response to the pandemic, but also for wider access to academic materials on teaching and learning.

This first link takes you to a collection of 35 academic articles in the Journal of Technology and teacher Education, all related to the teacher responses to the pandemic:
learning and Technology Library – Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

The second link, from the same source is an E-book of ‘Stories from the field’ about how educators responded to needs for emergency remote learning support:
Learning and Technology Library – Teaching, Technology, and Teacher Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Stories from the Field – Ebook
(In both cases above, simply click on the link to have it open in a separate tab or window)

 

Learning Resources – Black Lives Matter

The current demonstrations, anger and demands for change flowing from the ‘;Black lives Matter’ movement following the harrowing and awful killing of George Floyd and other black people in America have spread across the world. Young people feel inclined to raise their voices, but also they, and many adults, feel the need to be far better informed, to understand the issues, the depth of the anger and the history that has brought the issues to their current point.

Many teachers recognise in such events phenomenal ‘teachable moments’ and opportunities to help and guide learners as they build understanding and arrive at informed perspectives on the issues. However, it can be daunting to know quite where to start.

Here are two resource repositories that i think can be very useful, even if as starting points, though they represent quite a lot of resources.

The first is a google drive collection for Black History Month:
Black History Month – google drive
(Click on the link above for the drive folder to open in a new window or tab. Then, double click on any of the folders to open and explore the resources)

The second is the Smithsonian Institute’s Open Access Link for the National Museum of African American History and Culture:
Smithsonian – NMAAHC Collection
(Click on the link above to open the collection in a new tab or window)

Remote learning Resources

Adhyayan

In recent weeks I’ve shared a couple of collated repositories of resources and links for educators as they do the hard work of pivoting quickly to supporting learners remotely during lockdowns.

Here’s a new one that comes from India, curated by my good friends at Adhyayan.

Kavita Anand and team have spent the last couple of months supporting school Heads, teachers and parents to manage the technical and pedagogical challenges of the sudden changes. For the school leaders they’ve been running a set of excellent zoom learning sessions enabling school Heads from urban, rural, private, public, low-cost and high schools to make effective adjustments to how they lead, inspire and motivate their teams of educators to support their pupils to continue to learn in their homes.

The resources that they and clients have collated (that continues to grow) are available in the form of an app that can be found here:
Lockdown Learning Repository App
(Click on the link above for the link to open in a new browser window or tab)

The process for signing up is very easy and the contents are substantial.

On behalf of Adhyayan a final little plea – please be as ready to share valuable resources as much as to use those submitted by peers.

“New Normal” Webinar

New Normal

I’ve got my plans sorted for Saturday afternoon!

Will be talking about issues of how schools move forward after the pandemic. Details above for those who wish to attend. Please note that the timing is Dubai/ Gulf time, so those in other locations will need to make the adjustments.

I’m looking forward to this.

 

Character Lesson Material

Just sharing a quick link – a series of 12 lesson material downloads based on different aspects of character that are specifically designed for home lessons. Each character trait is approached through a separate plan, based on the experiences of a particular person who exhibited that trait:

Character at Home Lessons – Northampton Academy
(To  open in a separate tab or window, simply click on the link above)

As these are the product of someone’s hard work, appropriate to attribute them if you should choose to use some or all of them.

 

 

Bett – Contributing When We Can’t Meet

Bett and Remote Learning

The Bett Conference in London and the Bett Asia Conference in Kuala Lumpur are among the biggest dates in the year for educators to come together, see and hear the latest ideas for what’s happening in education and network with peers. However, in these times of the pandemic, we’re all denied the ability to experience such events. So, it’s good to see the Bett aren’t simply sitting on their hands, but are seeking to still share thoughts and ideas for educators.

Bett Conference – Community – Bettcast
(Click on the link above to open the website in either a new page or a new tab)

On the page above you’ll see the opportunity to register for upcoming webinars.

Further down the page, you’ll see links to recordings of some important and valuable material they’ve already put out. The Bettcast #1 was on the vitally important aspect of Safeguarding. The inputs come from a variety of educators working in different countries and have some important thoughts on maintaining similar rigour to safeguarding online to the efforts we practiced in our physical schools.

Bettcast #2 and #3 will look at student engagement and health and wellbeing in a remote learning environment.

Also, on the same page is a link to an April webinar that was a collaboration between Bett and Learnit exploring the leadership priorities of education leaders as they adjust rapidly to ‘the new normal’. Understandably, the urgency of the pandemic has meant that, up to now, most of the emphasis has been on teachers; what they need to do, the tools they need to use, how to approach remote learning effectively etc. However, the role of school leaders and how they handle it is critical, but so far the leadership aspects haven’t been given as much attention.

For most, this will be their first experience of leading remotely. For many, their school cultures (more in some countries than others) will have treated their role as highly status oriented, where people are very deferential and they are used to micro managing many aspects of the work. leading remotely will be putting many of these leaders under considerable strain. I intend to return to this topic myself in the coming weeks.

Reinventing School

 

Sharing here another great resource for educators who want to stimulate their own and their team’s minds in considering where we are now – thinking about the most effective ways to approach education now and in coming months.

Above is the first of three episodes that have been issued so far. There are more to come through the remainder of May and June. They can either be accessed through the Youtube channel or through the dedicated website:

Learning Revolution – Reinventing School
(Clicking on the link above will open the web page either in a new tab or a new window)

I like the idea in the panel discussions that they’ve tried to draw in the viewpoints of some students. All the students included in the first three episodes are erudite and highly intelligent, but i do still wonder whether they come across a little like rabbits caught in car headlights when posed with challenging questions that require quite a lot of insights in to education and the factors that shape it today.. The viewpoints and perspectives of some parents might also be valuable.

I believe, in this moment as I have generally over the last 10-15 years that, as educators, we need to be very cautious about just talking among ourselves. Somewhere, we need to be investing far more time and effort in talking with parents, students and the wider community about our beliefs for where education should go.

I’m finding increasingly in recent months when talking with other educators that we may all be saying that we never want things to go back to the old normals when it comes to how school education is done. However, if, when schools reopen, frustrated and anxious parents meet relieved stressed teachers  the impulse and temptation will be to want to replicate as much of what we used to have as possible, as quickly as possible. This is especially the case because those of us who have long wanted change haven’t really spent enough time and energy talking in the language of the public about why they should not want anything like what they were getting before for their children. We need to invest the time and effort with both teachers to help them to see the visions we see for what the future can be and why it will be better and more worth having for all concerned.

Learning Resources for Remote Learning

Learning Keeps Going

The sudden sweep of the coronavirus across the world has brought about the most phenomenal and amazing shift in how schools, teachers and pupils operate. Within weeks millions of children across the world moved from learning with teachers in classrooms to a scenario whereby the relevance of the school as a physical location evaporated and all moved to various forms of remote learning.

Important here to acknowledge that, almost completely, what children are currently experiencing is remote learning and not online learning. It’s important to differentiate that the latter is designed very specifically for the online arena, harnessing the unique and special advantages offered by online learning. To greater or lesser extents, schools have rushed to train and equip their teachers to deliver remote learning in various synchronous or asynchronous ways.

The urgency of the situation has led to an outpouring of sharing, collaboration and flexibility on the part of technology companies, edtech companies and those producing/ developing educational content (particularly online content).

So, with all of that in mind, I was really keen to share a vast resource that I came across. Edsurge 9s a US-based platform that incorporates a number of newsletters, a podcast and a valuable collated source of knowledge and up to date information for what’s happening in education. Whilst it’s US-oriented it also pays a lot of attention to what’s happening all over the world. Their reporting includes updates on the big deal making around the world in edtech. A few months ago they were the story as much as the reporters as they were taken over by ISTE.

In response to the covid-19 pandemic they’ve set up a separate portal site called  – “Learning Keeps Going” In it they’ve collated a vast collection (I believe it’s close to 900 resources!). The site can be found here: It covers the whole range from pre-school through to tertiary education.

Learning Keeps Going Portal
(To open, click on the link above  – the portal should either open in a new window or a new tab)

At the top right of their homepage are a number of links. One leads to a section containing a growing selection of webinars and podcasts related to educators’ responses to the covid pandemic. There are past recordings and details of forthcoming online events.

The most useful headings for teachers and school Heads are ‘Free Tech for Learning’ and ‘Teachers and Leaders’.

In the first, it’s very easy to filter to find what you want or might be interested in. One of the interesting features is to see whether a resource is offered free for the longer term, or if it’s only being offered free for a limited time. You can sort by the age group of students, subjects or topics. An important filter for all educators outside America is the last on the left – where the resources are available for use in regions of the world outside the US.

The teachers and Leaders tab has resources related to training teachers for remote learning facilitation, Teacher professional development (that shouldn’t grind to a halt at this time) and other resources of value as those in leadership roles seek to carry out their roles remotely.

BBC – The Learning Revolution

 

BBC LearningThere are many educators around like me (we have ways of identifying each other 🙂 ) who have spent years seeking to find ways to bring real, significant change in school education, but needing to surreptitiously nibble around the edges.

There are probably few areas in life that have greater inertia against change than education. Even major influences like Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk about education stifling creativity have been watched by millions, but have brought really very little change. However, suddenly, now, this massive black swan event that is the coronavirus has turned the world of children’s learning upside down.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a colleague from 8-9 years ago, remembering conversations at that time. In the school Group where i was Director in the space of a couple of weeks we had two special sets of circumstances that came up. Firstly, there was a student who was recovering from a course of chemotherapy for cancer. He was doing well and recovering well, but couldn’t risk leaving his home. He missed his classmates and was bored with just receiving worksheets etc sent home for him to study. Then, another young boy, a promising soccer player was invited to go on a long 3-month training camp away from home. His parents had approached the school to ask in what ways we might continue to support his learning during these months away.

I challenged my leadership team – we don’t take a fee from parents to provide a physical place, but to support their child to learn. Shouldn’t we be able to harness available technology to support their individual learning needs and requirements regardless of their physical location./ What followed was some encouraging creativity that enabled some skype sessions. These were appreciated by the two students and their parents, but didn’t really open up significant innovation around how learning could be impacted on a bigger scale.

What’s happening now is messy – it came about so fast that it couldn’t really be anything else. However, in this sudden and enforced change lie the seeds of major and significant change that may yet see the biggest shifts in mass education in well over 100 years. What children are receiving right now isn’t really remote learning, but covid learning under intense circumstances where teachers, parents and the students themselves all have high degrees of anxiety.

As the debates go on it’s vital that educators clarify what we want to see come out of this. Certainly, those who talk in terms of just getting through this short term aberration before ‘return to normal’ are missing vital points – including the fact that the old normal wasn’t working very effectively. We’ve also seen the evidence laid bare that it lacked equity and fairness of opportunity.

In coming weeks I’ll be writing and talking about the possibilities for what that future can look like. Out of this tragedy can come some thing good and exciting if we are bold, brave and ready to think creatively about what we want to see.

As a contribution, here’s a very good three part radio series made by BBC Radio 4.  Alex Beard explores the considerations and issues that will need to be foremost in our minds. The three half hour sessions explore – knowing, teaching and learning.

BBC – Radio 4 – The Learning Revolution
(Click on the link above to open the page in a new tab or window. From here, you can access all three episodes)

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