Learning with SOLE – take 20 minutes and watch this

Sugata Mitra gives his TED Prize Wish Talk

“Onstage at TED2013, Sugata Mitra makes his bold TED Prize wish: Help me design the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can explore and learn from each other — using resources and mentoring from the cloud. Hear his inspiring vision for Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE), and learn more at tedprize.org.”

(from www.TED.com)

My last post suggested that all educators have three duties:

  • To be curious: educators couldn’t do much more in fostering their curiosity than to subscribe to www.TED.com. If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I am always keen to recommend TED Talks and the TED sister sites such as TED-ED as a powerful repository of learning and resources. If you want to ease yourself in gently, have a look at www.teducation.com (which I am in the process of importing to WP) to find a selection of cracking Ted Talks with some of my own and guest-bloggers’ learning-focused reflections. If nothing else, they’re ready-made for INSET sessions and T&L groups to spark debate…
  • To share: once you’ve watched Sugata Mitra (@sugatam) explaining his Prize Wish, you could share the talk itself with a colleague or your team or you whole school. The next step would be to see if you could devise a SOLE project of your own, building on the principles of BROADBAND + COLLABORATION + ENCOURAGEMENT & ADMIRATION. There’s a SOLE Toolkit available to download that’s well worth a look
  • To acknowledge: tell others about ‘The School in the Clouds’, about SOLE and about TED Talks. Tell them by sharing informally, using an AOB at a team or staff meeting, asking people to join you to develop SOLE learning, leaving the SOLE Toolkit available for people to read / putting a copy in every pigeon hole, posting on the VLE…you get the drift. PLUS: as they ask on the TED site where get the toolkit from, sharing your feedback with them.

Over to you…

Three professional duties…?

Curious, Share, AcknowledgeFIRST: ‘We have a duty to be curious’

The assertion that we have a professional duty to be curious is taken from the words of Lucy Sweetman (@lucysweetman) and, with her permission, I used her quote in this illustration from Full On Learning:

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I would be amazed if there was anyone who works with children and young people who was not inherently curious. For therein lies the strength, if not the lifeblood, of not simply what we do but, who we are. We are insatiably curious. We exercise this curiosity every moment of our professional lives because it sustains us. And it is probably why we do what we do. Seeking out a battery of ways that enable very different learners to make a connection with the ideas, concepts and information that we lay before them is driven by our curiosity to understand, if not, decode the complexities of learning.

To exercise professional curiosity requires elements of introspection and outrospection in  equal measure. We need to be introspective and insatiably interested in our place in a world that is the world of our classroom and our school community. We then skilfully employ the powers of outrospection to reveal for our learners how what they are learning and experiencing relates to the wider world.

When it comes to outrospection, our creativity and ingenuity has an opportunity to jump to the fore. Forging connections between our world (that of our individual classroom and school) and the world  beyond (other schools and external research and evidence) is a natural process. The opportunity and challenge to be truly curious is to make connections between our classrooms and the worlds of business, engineering, fashion, design and scientific exploration, to suggest just a few. To consider the ways in which business and industry has created systems to engage their employees and / or their customers can provide valuable insight into ‘What motivates us?’ as in this post and to learn about the underpinning design process for the London Underground offers opportunities to devise powerful approaches to differentiation or even how to organise the traffic flow in school buildings, as in this post on ‘Phased Disclosure’. Just one look at www.Informationisbeautiful.net and the accompanying book, ‘Information is Beautiful’ by David McCandless enables us to see the power of visualising data to explain complex information and processes…and how we might encourage learners to use visualisation to present their learning.

For a great talk on ‘outrospection’, here’s an RSA Animate production. It’s a far-reaching talk by philosopher Roma Krznaric about the importance of EMPATHY as a powerful force to bring about change and there are some interesting applications to the realm of educational sharing and development which are too many to include in this post.

The professionally curious are the professionally enriched. It is because of this that they are also the enrichers, the inspirers, the synthesisers and the generators.

SECOND: ‘It is our professional duty to share’

This ties in with some of the themes covered in the RSA video above, but the importance of sharing as professionals was brought to my attention by a comment made by the fabulous educator, John Tomsett (who tweets as @johntomsett and blogs here), who simply stated that every educational practitioner, ‘…has a professional duty to share’.

Trying to encourage educators to blog, to document and to Tweet comes down to just this, a ‘professional duty to share‘.

Every day, we share our understanding, knowledge and our experience with our learners so that they can relate and connect with new knowledge. This is made possible through a repertoire of learning strategies, the skill of pedagogy and the design of the curriculum. When it comes to professional conversations, through informal and formal opportunities, most of us just can’t help ourselves when it comes to sharing our ideas about learning. It is, after all, what we do every day. Our business is, fundamentally, a sharing business.

Ensuring that our schools grow as regular and habitual places of such sharing comes about through a systematic approach that actively expects sharing to take place. Many schools who have this in place are now no longer in a position to require educators to share because it is now so embedded that it is part of the culture and, they might say, ‘just the way we do things here’. The challenge is for us to move to a place where the process of sharing is an institutional priority that underpins (and thereby facilitates) daily practice. It then becomes an integral part of the culture of the school and the habits of the members of the school community.

The aspect of Tim Harford’s book, Adapt: why success always starts with failure that most struck me was his proposition that the best ideas come from those who know their context best; from those on the front line, on ground level and who are front-facing. So the duty to share extends from an individual duty that all practitioners have to becoming a duty of schools to seek out and implement the most effective ways for those practitioners who ‘know best’ to connect.

Organisations such as schools who find ways to capitalise on the informal opportunities for sharing that in the frenetic pace of school life are already on the front foot.  By taking the next step and committing time to designing systems that create formal opportunities specifically and exclusively for the sharing of effective practice, for problem solving and solution-finding, the interactions and genuine collaboration will flow. The first step in this process is to make it a requirement for practitioners to share ideas and spend time with each other so that the second step evolves very naturally for practitioners and sharing in all manner of ways becomes a habit.

I read recently that Yahoo! has caused controversy by ending work-at-home arrangements. The anger from those affected resulted in the publication of this internal memo and the initiative was reported in “All Things D”.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of working from home (that’s definitely one for another post), but the rationale for Yahoo!’s change in policy is fascinating, particularly in light of the type of company that Yahoo! is. It would seem from Yahoo!’s stance that they have made human contact and physical interaction a priority for on-going innovation. In this, it would seem that they acknowledge that the value of both informal and formal opportunities for collaboration is too great an opportunity for the company to miss out on, “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts from being physically together…Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, its about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices”…interesting indeed.

Yahoo Memo

THIRD: ‘We have a duty to acknowledge’

GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689

Finally, we must never lose sight of the third point of the professional triangle, the ‘duty to acknowledge‘. In our collective endeavour to increase and secure our understanding of the oceans of information in which we swim, it is all the more important that we acknowledge the wise words, new insights and droplets of ingenuity that wash over us. Somebody once quoted the famous words of Isaac Newton to me when I was creating a bank of footnotes in an article, stating,  ‘The thing is, Zoë, we all know that we stand on the shoulders of giants…but there’s no need for the giants to be in the shot’. I have thought about this for a long time and I disagreed at the time and I still do. It is absolutely imperative that we keep the ‘giants’ in shot. The sharing of an idea  that is inspired by a conversation or reading is far more meaningful when the original spark of inspiration is placed centre stage in the spotlight. This acknowledgement is an integral part of professional curiosity.It encourages others to seek out and connect with the origins of the idea for themselves. So that others can adapt and create new meanings, thereby enriching the initial spark and fuelling it to shine brighter and for longer.

The way in which educational professionals engage with Twitter is, for the most part, an exemplary testimony to a shared professional endeavour to SHARE, BE CURIOUS and ACKNOWLEDGE. There are lessons in this for our students as they immerse themselves into the exponentially increasing banks of information that characterise all our lives in the 21st Century and when we discuss the uses and opportunities presented to us through social media.

So now, perhaps more than ever, as technology continues to give us the opportunity, we should actively embrace our individual and institutional professional duty to share, to be curious and with this, our duty to acknowledge.

Ask a quality group about group work and this happens…

Who are the best people to ask about group work? 

So I put out a tweet to a really high quality group: The Tweachers…

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Here’s what came back:

David Didau (@learningspy) “Effective Group Work” which was endorsed with a re-tweet of this link by Eric Wareham (@developingTandL) plus a second link from David here: “The Ultimate Teaching Technique” and  “Why group work works for me”

John Sayers (@JOHNSAYERSA picture of this group work assessment grid

Andy Day (@AndyphilipdayMonitoring Group Work: Charting its Progress

Robin Trangmar (@yrathro) sent links to documents in Dropbox:

(1) Student Learning Groups

(2) Teaching Small Groups

(3) Group Work Doers

Alex Battison (@alex_battison) tweeted: “Hi Zoe, harkness tables, at Exeter Philipps university (and prolific at Wellington college), are good things to investigate…they have rules to create group work that is completely student led. I have also looked to develop this in my lessons…students have created a list of rules for effective group work.”

Paul Sturtivant (@paulsturtivant)  tweeted: “Is your ScaRf NEAT? Successful group work Roles for learning Noise Equipment Attitude Time”

So, if you’re doing some thinking, maybe some action research or simply reflecting on learning design and considering what ‘quality group work is all about, here’s some resources to keep you going…not a bad effort for a Sunday afternoon. And all the while, this rich vein of expertise was flowing in, I was walking in the sunshine in a beautiful National Trust Property…who has time for educational Twitter?