Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Reflections on Future Focused Learning with Dr Brian Annan

I am a big believer in being open and transparent about learning and have found that blogs and Twitter are ideal platforms for publicly sharing knowledge as well as learning globally from others. They also contribute to making knowledge equitable, when resourcing constraints can become barriers to learning. As long as you accept that my words are my interpretation and reflection of my experiences, then together we can create and drive positive learning and change. I also welcome suggestions, views or feedback that will support my learning. Please comment below.

I was privileged to be invited by Margaret-Anne Barnett (MOE Principal Adviser Future-Focused Learning & Digital learning Technologies) to a Building Capability in Modern Learning Practices Workshop held in Dunedin on the 3rd July 2014. 

Preparation for the workshop and discussion required us to share a 5 minute reflection on the following:
1.       What got you started? 
2.       What were the drivers? 
3.       What were the barriers? 
4.       What are you learning about the process of change?   
5.       How could change of this magnitude be supported across the system – what would you have found most useful?
Some pre-workshop reading recommendations were also shared with us:
The report released in May this year from Minister Kaye’s 21st Century Learning Reference Group, Future-focussed learning in connected communities

And the A3 summary of the NZCER report, Supporting Future-oriented Learning and Teaching: A New Zealand Perspective

For the very keen beans, the full NZCER publication is here

The workshop was facilitated by Dr Brian Annan, Programme Director of Learning & Change Networks (LCN), Faculty of Education Auckland University. An important aspect of Brian’s leadership is to encourage participants to link into global networks so as not to reinvent the wheel.(Learn more about Brian here)

Dr Brian Annan in action during the workshop

I had already worked with Brian through participation in the Southern Regional LCN days as part of the Whitestone LCN. He also gave me feedback on my recent sabbatical report.
One of the interactive activities required us to share our answers to the questions above to the whole group in 60 seconds after we had shared them for 5 minutes in groups of three. Brian actually timed each of us!
We were then able to compare this experience to the fast sharing and demand for 'just now' knowledge in today's digital world.
I was able to share my 4 minute video that encapsulates the messages from my 6,000 word sabbatical report in a time friendly manner.
The question was posed - Could our learners create a one minute video to share their learning and change priorities as a form of self-evaluation? This also inspired me to create a one minute video to share my reflections from the day. You can access it here.

Brian also emphasized that we are well into the 21st Century and that this title has become outdated. We can replace it with 'Future Focused Learning' (FFL). Here is one of many interpretations of FFL
A discussion evolved around the place of the 'instructional core' in the 'ecology of learning' I have created links to some web articles to clarify these terms. Here is the diagram that we discussed that shows where the instructional core fits into the ecology of leaning.
Screenshot from my video 
When we all shared key words from our learning by writing them onto the whiteboard, we were challenged further through role plays. In groups of three we were asked to sit in front of the whiteboard and discuss the messages on the board in our roles as students, teachers, board members and parents. This added a rich insight into our discussions and motivated participants to carry out the same activity back in their own workplaces with real students, staff and whanau.
Photo taken during the workshop
Brian explained a frame for thinking about evaluation of learning in practice. He shared an example of this based on his own experience of learning to surf. I captured this part of the session on video. Here is the link. Brian also referred to the value of ongoing informal 'interactive reflections' on learning that need to happen between students, parents and teachers.
Screenshot from my video
Brian emphasized the power of student agency that shouldn't be confused with student voice. Student's learning must be driven by their own evaluation. They must be able to articulate what they need to change to take their learning forward. This is what must drive 'teaching as inquiry'. We need to move away from teacher ownership of the learning and change ideas and practices that we believe will support change. Instead we need to enable the students to articulate and action these.

 I discussed this with Lorraine Frances-Rees, a colleague  who happened to be at school during the recent term break ! She responded with these challenging questions for our learners.
Screenshot from Lorraine's email
This is already food for thought. We will share these questions after collaboration with all staff and learners early next term.

Finally, Brian spent the last part of the day discussing and sharing ways to evaluate engagement in learning. The learning map is a way of understanding the impact of the learning environment on learners. There is an article here that explains more about learning maps in action. The idea is that we use the learning from these maps to bring about change that will lead to deeper learning and achievement.The focus of these maps is on learning to learn.
 Screenshot from the LCN  Prezie by  R Burton & B Annan
Screenshot of children drawing learning maps from Issue 4 LCN Newsletter
As Brian emphasized, 'The knowledge is within the group. We need to draw it out.'
In a few weeks time, we will be bringing the staff from three schools together and creating an informal, social learning environment to activate learning and change. We will indeed have a large group of skilled staff to learn and change with and draw our knowledge and learning from. This is only the beginning. Further learning workshops bringing students and families together are in the pipeline.
Screenshot from my video
Together our ripples will travel further than if we were on our own as we work collaboratively to engage and activate deep learning and change in a future focused learning environment for all of us. 

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