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Sunday, 18 October 2015

My Inspiration - #CENZ15 EdBlogNZ Challenge

#CENZ15 EdBlogNZ Challenge, Week 1, #2. Write about some legendary bloggers, educators, inspiring leaders that help you to dream bigger?

This one had me thinking for some time until I reflected on what I share with people about Ulearn10 and the practice changing influences I found there. Not to mention the legends that make up the amazing group I was privileged to be part of last year as a member of #efellows14.

Lee Watanabe Crockett has set up the Global Digital Citizenship Foundation which is a non-profit organisation with their mission statement reading that the Foundation "helps teachers instil values in their students that guide them towards a vision of creating a better world for themselves and for others.Compassionate, innovative, inspirational, and fun—that pretty much sums us up!".

There were things in Lee's keynote at Ulearn10 that resonated deeply with me after watching my own children who were in the tween/early teen phases of their lives and what I was seeing with my students. They were multi-tasking, scanned for information differently, socially connected online and working in a way I had never dreamed possible as a tween/teen.

At the time he presented the keynote Lee was encouraging us to become Committed Sardines. This meant we were sent a weekly overview of the Committed Sardine blog posts which continued to influence my thinking beyond Ulearn10. These blog overviews still arrive but not from Committed Sardine - now they come from Global Digital Citizen. They still challenge my thinking and practice. Lee has also authored and co-authored a range of books which have influenced my practice including 'Understanding the Digital Citizen'. Much of the content is still very relevant to currently labelled innovative practice.

Another keynote during Ulearn10 was Lane Clark. I had already completed the training for Infolink developed by Gwen Gawith and born from action research. The work I had completed with my students in this way had me sold on this concept already. Lane shared her system for encouraging this in classrooms. Again there was resonation as she spoke about just in time learning that was real and authentic for the learner, not because the curriculum or long term plan said so. Over the last few years I have purchased and read Lane's books then used ideas with students in a mash up of the two methods as my classes worked through their inquiries.

The final inspiration for change at Ulearn10 was saved until the final keynote. Stephen Heppell shared his experiences of designing new spaces for learning that suited the learner rather than an outdated, siloed curriculum delivery method. I had seen my own students wanting to work outside on the verandahs with the digital technology we had, sit on the floor in collaborative groups, and challenge each other's thinking with discussion. The spaces he was talking about were a perfect match to what the students I was teaching were in need of. He also spoke about the mobilisation of learning and the need to figuratively blow the walls off the classroom as widely as possible. I still follow Stephen and his ideas through his website. It has continued to prod my thinking, poke at my practice and provoke me into further change as time has passed.

I felt sorry for my poor principal when I returned from Ulearn10. I was coming at him with risky ideas that he in turn took a risk and chose to support. New innovative furniture in a single cell led to a change in teaching style and a letting go of control on my part. New ways of learning were trialled and my class were regularly off course from the long term plan that the rest of the cluster followed. Increased technology saw us arrive at a situation where we had 15 netbooks or laptops for a class of 32 students. I cannot thank him enough for supporting my practice changes and action research. Without the support I received then I would not be where I am now in a number of ways.

Last year I was privileged to find myself part of an amazing team of people as one of the #efellows14. From the first face to face we had together we clicked as a group and shared a lot of laughter, angst, worry, ideas, wondering, and work throughout the year. This also includes our wonderful and extremely supportive facilitators, Dr John Fenaughty and Dr Louise Taylor. These guys poked and prodded at our thinking and views about education to expand them, encouraging us to step outside our comfort zones and take risks as we looked into what part of our research was going to be transformative. We were also fortunate to visit some stunning schools and be stretched still further by the talent that is housed within CORE Education. Each of us had to find a coping mechanism for the brain bursts that would happen in the night - either not letting us sleep when we went to bed or waking us in the early hours. It was professional development on steroids. Collaboration led to ideas we would never have thought possible at the beginning of the year. And such an awesome year it was!

I treasure any time I get with these #efellows14 legends who continue to challenge me to expand the edges of my practice and step outside the box with my thinking. I know that our 'oddfellows' year, the teams of past efellows, along with the newer models from 2015, 2016 and on into the future will continue to provoke reflection and change in my practice for years to come. Bring it on!

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