Friday, July 11, 2014

Big Projects

We use Specialised Learning Modules, Learning Hub, MyTime and Big Projects to enable students to experience the NewZealand Curriculum in a variety of packages rather than just the single subject, single class, single teacher model that is part of the paradigm of one.

Big Projects are a major part of our curriculum. This YouTube clip has our project leader, Sarah Wakeford, explaining the intent of Big Projects and how they work.

Our first Big Project concentrated on Building our Culture and aligned with our Term I big concept of identity and our Term II big concept of Space and Place. This web page explains how students were supported to contribute.

The culmination of this first Big Project occurred on the evening of June 26 when students presented the results of their work to the community. Students positioned themselves beneath the relevant banner that detailed the Hobsonville Habit disposition that was evident in their project work. They talked about their project and answered questions from their parents.

Watching these students talk so confidently about their learning, with their work displayed as if in a gallery with parents wandering around with their souvenir programme it was important to remind ourselves that we were dealing with 13 year olds who had spent merely 3 hours one day a week for 15 weeks to get to this point.

After this viewing session we were treated to poetry recital, orchestral music, dance, drama and modern music from our wonderfully talented students.

This was our mission of Innovate Engage Inspire in action. As a result of forming a powerful partnership with the Hobsonville Land Company our students were inspired to produce high quality work which impressed the audience and the HLC. I am convinced the authenticity of the learning context drove accountability and rigour so that high quality work was produced and high quality learning took place.

Mock ups of some of the banners on display in our auditorium

The following is a selection of photos taken at the event:

Seems like we're ready to launch into the next Big Project which will result in a school show!

Leading At The Edge of Chaos

My colleague, Claire Amos, wrote in a recent post about Teaching on the Edge of Chaos a concept that we both heard Sugata Mitra talk about at the recent EduTech Conference in Brisbane. It appears to have resonated with her and it certainly has with me. At the same conference, Ewan McIntosh also introduced me to the concept of agile leadership.

I have come to think of these two concepts as the two sides of a coin or weights on a balance keeping everything in synch. When I think about being on the edge of chaos the only way to survive and develop is by being agile. I reckon agility is an important trait for a leader in a future-focused school not only because it makes dealing with uncertainty and rapid change more likely to be successful but also because it puts the leader in the position of role modelling this trait, not only for all members of the teams, but more importantly for our students whose world is going to require them to be very agile.

One of my personal goals against Principal Professional Standards in the area of Community and Networks is to not only blog my personal leadership journey but also to get out of my comfort zone and present or run workshops to a wide range of audiences. While there has been a bit of a break since my last blog (largely because a lot of my time has recently been focused on the presenting aspect for the last few weeks) I reckon I'm posting more than the average bear (in this case secondary school principals).

In the last few weeks I have been ale to present/workshop at a ChallengEd day in Auckland, 2 Emerging Leaders Conferences (Christchurch and Auckland), a Restorative Practices workshop in Auckland, the Wellington Secondary Schools Principals Association, the Central North Island DP Association in Taupo and had the privilege of spending a day workshopping with staff and students from Lincoln High School in Christchurch.
Selfie with Yr 9 students from Lincoln
Looking back over the themes of these workshops the common theme seems to have been convincing others that we are on the edge of chaos and that strong, agile leadership is required to navigate in this environment.

What do we mean by the edge of chaos?
Surely this description is a huge exaggeration. Some of us don't think so.

In the 1970s our employers expected our graduates to be strong in the three R's of Reading, Riting and Rithmetic and schools concentrated on these. There was, therefore, a close alignment between employer expectations and school delivery. I was a secondary school student in the 1970s and certainly felt as if I was being prepared for the world I was about to move into.

What about now? The three key skills employers want now are team work, problem-solving and inter-personal skills. The question we have to ask is does the alignment exist. My argument that schools still concentrate their teaching, assessment and reporting on the original 3 R's and do little about the 3 21st Century skills identified above. That could lead to a bit of chaos!

As well, employment opportunities are also changing rapidly. We have already seen agriculture plummet from 40% of the employment market to less than 2% and we're fully aware of the decline in employment in the range of manufacturing and processing industries. Even the service industries which have resisted the downward trend, but even that is now starting to occur. It is the creative sector which is on the rise, currently at 35% across the developed world and likely to be at 50% by 2018. Are schools positioning themselves for this employment environment or are they, as many of us suspect, reducing concentration on the creative learning areas to maintain a firm concentration on the 3 's and STEM subjects (all of which have their place, but not to the exclusion of the creative sector). This could be chaos, especially when linked to the bit of chaos above!

Let's not forget Moore's Law. With the power of the computer chip doubling every year and the price halving every year it means that by 2022 the equivalent of today's mobile device will hold the total sum of all human knowledge retrievable in a few seconds and will only cost a few dollars.

I see this as hugely exciting for the human race. In a few short years, for the first time in our history every citizen on the earth will have full access to all knowledge. This is true liberation as we wont be held ransom to those who control knowledge and it's sharing out.

But it will contribute to the sense of chaos for schools if we don't reposition ourselves in this environment. Schools and teachers have been key players in rationing knowledge (because you are this age we're going to share this bit with you) and preventing access to knowledge (high fees, exclusions, narrow curricula). We will no longer be required if we merely dispense knowledge.

If we wish to remain on the edge of chaos (more comfortable than up to our knees in it!) we need to be the place where we assist young people to search discernibly for knowledge, critically analyse this knowledge and then use this knowledge, wisely, to solve our big problems and to improve our world. Employers, and wider society, will want people who know how to use knowledge.

The MOE 2012 Report on Future Focused Education recognises the misalignment that now exists and ERO has pointed out in it's 2012 Report on Priority Learners that schools have to be more agile......

If we think about the changing employment environment, the impact of Moore's Law and the urgings from MOE and ERO how should leaders in schools respond?

I have found comfort in Dweck's work on Mindset and have come to believe that what is required is not a skill set but more of a mind set.

To support my ability to lead at the edge of chaos I keep reflecting where I am on a continuum in relation to each of the 5 aspects identified above. I encourage others to include some aspect of growth mindset within their own teaching or learning inquiry.

My own leadership inquiry, which is also central within my performance appraisal, is concentrating on getting the right balance between Warm and Demanding which is a construct many of us at HPSS are exploring when we think about teaching, learning, leading and schooling.

 I have begun to determine what makes up aspects of being Warm and Demanding, firstly as a teacher

and then as a leader......

I'm keen to develop this a lot further and also do some thinking in relation to what do we mean by Warm and Demanding Learning and what it means to be a Warm and Demanding School. I'm going to try to think how I might do this in a way which draws on the knowledge and experience that exists with you.