So, my new job is "Leading Teacher -Personalised Learning". So what on earth does that mean? Well, apart from developing an holistic strategy to assessment, data, learning portfolios and pedagogy in terms of personalising the learning and school experience (takes a breath) I am building upon the excellent work already happening in a subject called "Personal learning". Personal learning is a kind of learn to learn/PSHE mash up which has the intention of boosting students' learning power (if I can borrow Guy Claxton's phrase) in their first year at JMSS. The course is built around developing the skills, attributes and knowledge of succesful learners. The attributes we are working from come from UNESCO's four pillars of Education and are summarised here.
To give a brief taste of the year view, we will be moving from quite tightly planned learning experiences helping the students to reflect on themselves as learners, give them some learning tools such as graphic organisers, SOLO taxonomy, de Bono's Thinking Hats etc, up to their own design thinking challenge for the last term. ( I was inspired, as ever, by NoTosh to take part in a brilliant design thinking process in England in October- read about it here).
Throughout this, the aim is to use realsmart as a portfolio which gathers evidence of the process of learning as well as the outcomes and is owned by the learners (that is the trick; developing reflective learners who are motivated to reflect independently for a reason!) Below is the skeleton for the learning portfolio I am going to use although students can design their own.
So we are starting off by deciding, together, what skills, knowledge and attributes we wish to have developed after 3 years at JMSS and then we are going to decide how we go about it. There is a year overview, there are a few lesson plans and a structure but their are still huge gaps in "my" planning for personal learning this year and I hope it is from those gaps that the best learning will come!
What I love about the John Monash Science School mission is that it is not about preparing students for the future they will inherit, but it also recognises that we need to make our students confident and capable enough to create their own world and have a positive impact on those around them. I hope that personal learning can help them realise this.
"The Mission of John Monash Science School is to develop in all our students the skills, attributes, knowledge and balanced perspectives which will best enable them to make a positive difference to the world they will both inherit and co-create."
In my last post I ranted and talked about the state of the languages nation, so here I am going to share some of my thinking into how I think it could be done! Any of the good ideas I have are mainly stolen and at best blended with the ideas of such wonderful thinkers as Derek Wise, Michael Wardle, Darren Mead, John Connor, Ewan McIntosh et al and I must confess that anything that sounds rubbish is inevitably a 100% me, but here we go. The following is the introduction from an essay I am writing which form the basis for a presentation (see the handout at the top of this post) I am giving in Southampton on Sunday (which if you would like to watch it live streamed and probably see me trip over or faint you can tune in here at 9:45am GMT Sunday 13th February). If you think it is interesting, then tune into the broadcast or catch up with the blog post next week.
Languages : Reboot
It is 2011 and we are in danger. By we, I mean those of us who may have an interest in the following ideas; learners and teachers of languages. Danger may seem a strong word, but I do not use it lightly. We are in danger of turning our children off languages. The current government has put in place the English Baccalaureate which will encourage “more rigourous, academic study of language” and like it or not this concept will inevitably lead to a rise on the numbers of language learners continuing to study languages up to the age of sixteen. The great caveat is that if we continue with the mundane, memory based, rote learning and nullifying contexts of the current GCSE, we will lose any sense of developing linguists and we will continue to keep only a very small proportion of those who study a language up to the age of 16 studying languages up to A-level and beyond once they have achieved their baccalaureate. The current government’s plan with the Ebacc is not to develop a new generation of great linguists, it is to create a new generation of learners who see languages as an elite subject which marks the academically bright from the proletariat. This will, in the long run, lead to continuing decreases in the number of languages undergraduates and a languages deskilling of the general population, including those in the business and commerce sector.
Most believe that the cause of the general apathy towards learning a “foreign” language in the UK is the globlish phenomenon. Everyone speaks English so why should I bother learning anything else? To a certain extent this is true but you and I have rehearsed the arguments against this a thousand times in defence of our subject and we know them to be true; intercultural understanding, employability, improved communication skills, the prevalence of the BRIC economies etc. And the real downer about the globlish situation? There is nothing we can do about it. In our ever shrinking world, with all of its inequalities, problems and vast opportunities, you probably can get by on English and we certainly can not halt the growth of English as a global language.
So are we impotent in the face of this danger? I do not believe so. We can change the hearts and minds of our children towards language learning. We do it every day. We work incredibly hard to create engaging and powerful learning experiences in our classrooms despite all of the barriers we may face (reduced curriculum time, learner or school apathy, poor examination system, boring contexts and text books etc). Some of these barriers are not within our power to overcome, yet, I am going to argue and exemplify, we can definitely make moves to re-empower ourselves and our profession, we can make language learning such a rich and holistic learning experience that we are not only developing great language learners but as importantly great 21st Century learners. We can show learners, school leaders and the rest of the educational world that learning another language is not only a fantastic way to develop effective learners but it is probably the best and most flexible tool to develop learners who can “learn, unlearn and relearn”. (Tofler, Alvin)
The models and ideas I am proposing are not revolutionary, they are simply evolutionary. We are now at a point where, although our system of language learning and teaching is not entirely broken (there are fantastic examples of truly effective practice happening every day) our disk drive is fragmented, we have a lot of old and now corrupt data which has dragged our approach to a grinding trudge. We do not need to reinvent the wheel or throw out the baby with the bath water, but we do need to do something to pull together powerful, purposeful pedagogy and ensure we remould language learning into a relevant and holistic learning experience. Ask any ICT technician what to do and he or she will give you the answer “turn it off and turn it back on again”. Well, they are right, it is time for a Languages : Reboot.
As part of our continued professional development programme at school, we are undertaking professional enquiries from a choice of 12. These enquiries will be made up of groups of teachers enquiring into aspects of education, teaching and learning and hopefully engendering some positive change.
I was asked to facilitate the PEG (professional enquiry group) looking at personalisation, so as part of our 3 day staff conference staff could opt to go to a taster session for 4 of the PEGs before choosing the enuiry group we wanted to work with after half-term for the rest of the year. In my taster session, I started off by having a rolling powerpoint of groups linked to a painting by a famous artist. Two of the groups had their first or nicknames and a picture of themselves on the powerpoint, 1 group had their Mr/Ms name and a photo, 1 group had initials and no photo, and one group just had surnames. I was delightful to my first two groups during the connect the learning activity (draw what affects how you work on a daily basis), giving them sweets and praising them whilst I shouted at and and ignored the other groups. In the first review, straight after the connect, we discussed how that classroom set up made them feel. One colleague said that I "treated us differently, you gave different things to different groups of people." So I asked him, was that differentiation? We then discussed how one enquiry might be the difference between differentiation and personalisation. How can we ensure that school is personal to every child, not just to groups of learners? How do we ensure that we treat Amy as Amy and not just as CAT=108, MQT =B UQT=A? We then looked at this video which makes some interesting points about schooling and personalisation.
This led to some very interesting discussion about how we shift from organisation to personalisation and what kind of shifts we might need to make in our school in order to achieve a personalised school which has 2,300 students in it! Not an easy task!
We then watched some excerpts of another video which is an animation based on an RSA talk given by Sir Ken Robinson last year. I watched the talk last year and thought it was great, but the new animation just takes it to another level! A fascinating, question raising talk!
After some more discussion, we finally used the thinking dice to generate some possible lines of enquiry we may follow over the next 9 months. (If you have not seen the thinking dice, they are great, check them out here.) We generated some interesting questions using the stems and the question I think I am going to enquire into personally is "How do we get from organisation to personalisation?"
This, Dear Reader, is where I need your help! Any thoughts, questions, links, arguments, reading materials, examples of great practice in this area would be most warmly welcomed. I am hoping to use crowd sourcing as a way to do some really deep research into this area and share back any findings with you. I am considering how best to do this (part of my enquiry cycle!) and at the moment am going to ask for any comments to be made on this blog post (although I am thinking about a wiki) and I am also going to use the twitter tag #org2pers when gathering information from the wonderful professional learning network I am part of on Twitter.