I am a class teacher for Year Four and five students and a team leader for the middle school. My class and I are a part of the Manaiakalani Google ClassOnAir.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Karen Spencer - Beyond the Echo Chambers

Karen was the last of the key note speakers at the ULearn conference 2016. She was the one who most inspired me as I could connect to my real teaching world. She started by challenging us to think about 
so what now? what will we do when we go back to school in about 72 hours from then?

She then started to give us idea about how to go about when we are in our work spaces.

These ideas were very well summed up through a sketch at the conference 

  • Praxis - this is the weaving of the research and ideas into practice. She illustrated this with the image of basket weaving where everything is twined and intertwined to turn into a beautiful basket. Teaching is the same...
  • Professional Development - We as educators should always strive to be better educators. Improving our skills in teaching should be a continuous process because 'Professional learning is not an extra thing on the plate, it is the plate'
  • To keep up with the changing world of education - it is important that teachers stay networked. This will allow them to stay connected and share ideas with each other. It is not just to stay at the receiving end but to challenge ourselves to participate in more complex conversations. Then Karen talked about holding ourselves and take the time to consider what is the most urgent need of our learners.

  • Find the urgency - Every school has a curriculum that has a vision. This vision reflects our learners and the vision has some kind of outcome. Any new changes should drive this outcome. Students and teachers should live this vision so much that 'it can be seen dripping of the walls of the school'. If change is not planned strategically keeping the needs of our learners in mind then sometimes it can lead to dillusions and create more stumbling blocks in the way to achieve the vision.
  • See the story behind the data 
  • Data is not just the picture of numbers... data tells us the stories of our learners...When we question ourselves deeply about the data then we can hear deeper stories and understand what is going on in the lives of our children and so need to look at planning in a way that will help these students make shifts.
We should acknowledge that everyone is different and each person views different things in data and in their learner's stories. We should embrace these different points of view and and learn from them. we should challenge our biases so that we do not end up in an echo chamber. She illustrates this very nicely using John Cussack's role 'keep the fear out of the set'.

It is great to know about the new ideologies and the strategies that bring change, but we need not to be impulsive. We need to refrain ourselves from quick solutions as they can prove to be dangerous. We should spend some time to pay attention to most important current needs of our students and then address these needs. She said that we needed to plan carefully and 'hold our ideas lightly' rather than jumping to make a change.

Karen reminded us that we in New Zealand were very fortunate to have a curriculum that allowed us to be flexible. Our NZ curriculum is very good that we need not look further!

In the end she summarises by sharing a quote ' Education does not change the world. Education changes people and people change the world'. 

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