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Friday, 30 September 2016

Riding The Wave

A surfer looks at the waves and responds to them. When looking at trends we need to do the same! paraphased quote of Mark McCrindle's.

This post has been sitting with me for a while and earlier this week I had the privilege to listen to Mark McCrindle an award winning social researcher, best-selling author and influential thought leader share on the current and future treads in Australia and globally. I was encouraged by much he had to say especially with connecting with emerging generations. The reason I was encouraged was because he said that they desire relationships that are real, relevant and responsive. This trend was common to the Builders, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z and the Generation Alpha. Even though we live in such a connected, device driven world, there is a strong desire for closeness and authenticity in relationship.

The emerging trends and the force of change around these trends technology, population and attitudes can be a point of tension, causing stress and anxiety. How do we adapt? By considering the enviably of change and deciding whether we can stand still or lead. By standing still, we may be digging in our heals in, we may find that things become mounded on top of us, stress builds and we become weighed down. Whereas, if we lead, we may become free to respond to the changes in the world around us. Please note, we may not always like or enjoy this change; however, through the management of change we can see and experience growth as we ride the wave.

I would like to reword and reapply Mark’s original statement about surfers and trends by applying it to our own and the lives of our students. We must to look at the situation we find ourselves in and learn to respond and adapt in ways that will produce the desired outcome. As we respond and adapt though we will often be taken through the pit of despair/learning and build both resilience and our capacity to lead.

Leadership is about guiding and impacting our own lives and the lives others. By growing through the challenges to we become people worth following. The pit is never an enjoyable place! Many of my pits have been dark places where I have needed the support of others and my faith to see light in the situation. In just over a month, I celebrate 16 years of marriage. During this time, life has been like a rollercoaster. Some of my ups and downs include: having the opportunity to lead an amazing outdoor education team; to the loss of my home in a bush fire; to having athletes represent NSW and Australia; to severe injury causing me to change the direction of my profession; to teaching in great schools; to seeing great endevours fail; to experiencing the best and the worst of humanity; to having two gorgeous children; to miscarriages; to having great investments and then losing almost the lot. Life is not a smooth and rosy ride, it is something that gets its flavour through variety. It is not about what we are given but how we respond to what we are given that counts and through our response we can experience the blessings.

It is essential to be innovative in the way we act, associate with and respond to each other. Why we connect with technology is not because we want to relate to the technology, we desire relationship to the person on the other side of the technology. Our core driver as educators essentially is not the curriculum, it is based on the needs and engagement of others, our students. Relationship and technology becomes the vehicle to deliver the content.

It was suggested that by triangulating trends we can begin to predict and engage with the future. Currently, the leading trend in Australia was collaboration and connection to solve each other’s problems. This can be seen in both business growth and on the web and as a result, it is disrupting traditional processes. Similar disruptive trends can be seen in education with flexible learning spaces, funky furniture, flexible seating arrangements, collaborative learning environments, problem-based, flipped, mastery and adaptive learning. It could be said that learning environment has shifted and as a result explicit teaching has moved into the realm of smaller group or individual teacher tutoring and mentoring.

Mark highlighted the learning ecosystem has moved from verbal to visual, sit and listen to try and see, curriculum to learner centered, closed book to open book, ridged to flexible, and as a result our roles as educators have changed from teacher to facilitator.

When I think back to when I was a student, my teacher was the fountain of knowledge and we sat in rows taking notes to their lecture. I know from experience this is not the case for many students presently. We are shifting from a liner world to a disrupted world. If I look at my own class, outsiders may see campfire, waterhole and cave moments, small teams working on independent problem solving task, brainstorming activities, the construction of models and prototypes, peer tutoring and testing of ideas. They will hear direct instruction by the teacher or expert in the room based on the explicit needs of the students and see this adapted for each student. From this they would experience active conversations and sometimes even heated ones as students wrestle with defining problems and identifying areas of concern, sharing the lightbulb moments and ideas that would be achievable within time restraints.

As Dr. Mark Weston explained in a recent post, if the goal is for most students to achieve and some to exceed mastery then instruction must be well designed and delivered. We must establish the relevance of the lesson, by consider the learning styles of students and teaching strategies that aide learning, the scaffolds the learning tasks will need and the effect of guided practice, and how rotate-and-check learning and harnessing peer power can have an effect on students. The effect of this will support a student’s ability to react and respond to the situation and build resilience to the challenge.

My job as the educator is to facilitate this process of discovery and construction of new knowledge based on the curriculum within the context of an age of entrepreneurism, creativity and innovation. I am a generalist primary educator and as such I am required to teach all elements of the curriculum. Playing to my strengths within an environment of a teaching team, I feed the learning through my passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) and relate it to the students personal learning passions.

Students in our present day come to class to have a transformed learning experience, to participate, collaborate and create their understanding. By empowering this deep sense of awe and engagement in rich social environment students can experience motivation, develop resiliency, encourage critical thinking and learn to manage time in the face of challenge and frustration.

The Alpha Generation entering our schools will know less of paper and more of glass, the powerful challenge I was left with was how do I use this technology to make my learning and the learning of my student real, relevant, responsive and relational? How can I speak to them using visuals and in modes that reach to their heart to allow them to appreciate my authenticity in supporting them in responding to their learning and life challenges? 
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