Simplicity & Nostalgia: A fractured fairytale of school.

old-workOnce, in a land that seems so far away, life was much simpler. Things were predictable. If you were successful in life, you went to school, learnt the stuff they told you to learn, passed your exams, studied your chosen vocation (chosen by whom was probably debatable), started a job, stayed in that job (and maybe even hated that job but it fed your family), retired with a gold watch, bought a caravan and drove off into the sunset. This only tells half the story. The ‘good old days’ timeline for the majority of women would have been vastly different.

The response of many to the complexity of the 21st century is to remember days that were simpler, but this nostalgic view of life has been broken, mostly by technology and all those ‘terrible’ opportunities to create, connect and collaborate. While life is undoubtedly much more complex today, it also has the potential to be more fulfilling, especially to that previously mentioned 50%, who’s life choices were pre-determined by societal expectations.

This simpler life fits the ‘Newtonian Paradigm’. Sir Isaac Newton saw the operation of society like a clockwork mechanism, it was ultimately ‘reducible’,

“The machine’s function was understood to be no more than the sum of its parts. To understand the function, the machine could be reduced to its parts, and each part reduced to smaller parts, viewed in isolation to each other”
(Wells & McLean, 2013, p.68).

Last century, schools fitted neatly into the reductionist paradigm, often referred to as the factory model. It was expedient and prudent to be mechanistic about schooling, where the main benefit of all those years seemed to be ‘a job for life’. A linear curriculum, predominantly directive pedagogies, subject hierarchies and rectangular classrooms sufficiently served the purpose of school-as-factory (Davis & Sumara, 2010). As technology disrupted, the game changed. The emphasis shifted from ‘teaching’ (teacher-directed) to ‘learning’ (student-centred). 

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (Aristotle)

Learning is complex. The study of complexity acknowledges that the ‘whole’ functions as a system, with multiple participants involved in self-organisation. ‘Complex adaptive systems’ operate in the in-between, rather than extremes where it could be thought, if there there isn’t control, then there must be anarchy. (Miller & Page, 2007).

Educators have now begun to use complexity theory to show how the relationships of individuals, collective ideas, and curriculum can be thought of as nested learning communities” (Upitis, 2004). 

With schools seen as complex adaptive systems there has been a turning point in how teachers work and how schools are designed. Command and control approaches, linear pathways and predetermined endpoints can no longer predominate in the 21st century. Teaching becomes, “a form of engaged attentiveness and responsiveness to others” (Upitis, p.28). This requires a balance – providing enough level of organisation and openness to enable productive learning. It is definitely not a learning culture of ‘free range chickens’ doing exactly what they want.

Alongside this, the physical environment also needs to support the complexity,

educational reform cannot happen in buildings that currently exists and it is the job of both the architects and educators… to determine how the natural and built environments can change in concert with educational philosophy” (Upitis p. 33-34).

Learning is complex and the learning environment needs to be responsive. The rectangular classroom, one teacher for an age-based class of 25-30 students cannot serve the complexity of nested learning communities. Maintaining the nostalgic view of education is unhelpful, to the teaching profession, to society, and most importantly, to our young people.

@anneknock

Refs:

Davis, B., & Sumara, D. (2010). ‘If things were simple . . .’: complexity in education. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice

Miller, J. H., & Page, S. E. (2007). Complex adaptive systems. [electronic resource] : an introduction to computational models of social life: Princeton, N.J.

 

Upitis, R. (2004). School architecture and complexity. Complicity: an international journal of complexity in education

Wells, S. & McLean, J (2013). One Way Forward to beat the Newtonian Habit with a complexity perspective in organisational change. The University of Adelaide Business School

Growing a professional learning community in your school: ONE thing that you need first.

Effective and lasting change in schools, or any organisation for that matter, is a result of a strategic process, designed to meet the needs of the school, rather than ‘sending a couple of teachers off to a workshop’. When I first started at SCIL we decided to run workshops on a variety of educational topics, such as ‘Learning Matrix ’ or ‘Web 2.0 Tools for the Classroom’. These were often presented to a disparate group of educators sent along to learn some skills for their own classroom and tick a few accreditation boxes along the way. Something started to feel not quite right with this ‘lone ranger’ methodology.

We instinctively knew that for effective pedagogical change, we needed to encourage teams to come, to participate in a facilitated process. This was a catalyst for Design/Engage. We believed that effective professional learning, leading to change in mindset and practice, could really only happen through a learning community.

“The most promising strategy for sustained, substantive school improvement is the developing ability of school personnel to function as a professional learning community.” (DuFour & Eaker, 1998)img_8242.jpg

Professional: expertise, knowledge and experience in a particular field

Learning: ongoing and fed by curiosity

Community : characterised by mutual cooperation, emotional support and personal growth, working together toward shared goal

For effective professional learning in community, there is one key characteristic that needs to be in place,

“It is evident that among faculty members looking to improve their schools as professional learning communities, a commitment to trust is frequently regarded as an important pre-condition.” (Cranston, 2011,p. 61).  

What type of trust?

Bryk and Schneider (2002) described trust as the basis for developing social capital, and identify three types:

Organic Trust is based on the moral character and designated authority of leadership and is given unconditionally. This kind of trust has often been seen in faith-based environments, clergy and lay-leaders, had almost unquestioned trust. Yet, this basis has been somewhat eroded today, as we frequently see tragic cases of abuse of such trust. 

Contractual Trust is transactional. Basic actions and outcomes are agreed upon, in accordance with stated terms. In this era of high-stakes testing and parent expectations and government agendas, it is a fear that education could be translated to these terms.

Relational Trust, John Dewey observed that a good school is more like a [functional]  family than a factory (Bryk and Schneider, 2002). Relational trust forms the basis of the ‘family’ interactions. Despite personality differences and clashes, there is a bedrock of connection that enables relationships to be maintained. 

Relational trust is the foundation of the effective professional learning community, and essential for effective and lasting change.

On a personal note, I firmly believe that in the 21stC faith-based schools and communities need to be built on the notion of ‘relational trust’. One that is evident in a leader’s ongoing trustworthiness, rather than on the basis of moral authority alone.

@anneknock

Refs
Bryk & Schneider (2002) Trust in Schools: A core resource for improvement
Ch2: Relational Trust
DuFour & Eaker (1998) Professional learning communities at work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement: Best practice for enhancing student achievement

A Leadership Strategy: Ask not what your people can do for you (rather, the other way around)

My part in the research project ILETC is looking at the role of the teacher, adapting and changing mind frames and practices to take the opportunities that the innovative learning environment affords. This cannot happen in a vacuum, it is effective and lasting when change is the result of leadership, clear vision and the collective pursuit toward a shared future.

just-add-techI noticed this picture on twitter recently. We just can’t add technology, or add new furniture and hope for the best. If we believe in enduring change for the good of society, then the iceberg metaphor applies. It’s all the hard work that happens beneath the surface that makes change go the distance. We are in an era of unprecedented change in education, one in which disruption is necessary in education, for a generation unlike those who have gone before. In their report for A Rich Seam, Fullan and Langworthy (2014) outline ‘new pedagogies’:

The ‘new pedagogies’ are not just instructional strategies.They are powerful models of teaching and learning, enabled and accelerated by increasingly pervasive digital tools and resources, taking hold within learning environments that measure and support deep learning at all levels of the education system.”

They explain that a new process of change is required, called “inherent change”, an almost organic process, “built around humankind’s need to… be doing something intrinsically good and… to do it socially”.

This ‘new change leadership’, necessary for these new pedagogies to take hold is not considered to be either top-down or bottom-up, it needs to be,“both and, it is also sideways. Ideas and energy flow vertically and laterally…. The role of leaders is to simultaneously help the organisation ‘let go’ and ‘rein in’”.

The Essential Leadership Model, outlined by by Knuth & Banks (2006) is based on Maslow’s Hierachy. It considers what the teachers need from the leader and outlines “a set of knowledge, skills and dispositions required for meeting those needs”. During the leader’s ascension, toward the apex there are key checkpoints, questions that leaders need to ask themselves for the vision realised. This is my simplified version of Knuth & Banks strategy:

First Level: Your actions match your words
Leaders model core values and principles. You are able to inspire trust and articulate vision. Principle-centred leaders inspire trust by displaying consistency between core values, words and actions.

Leader Checkpoint 3: Is your internal compass in or out of alignment?
If your words and actions don’t match there’s no need to go any further.

Second Level: My physical and material needs matter to you
The work environment is clean and attractive. Sound, air-quality and safety needs are considered. Teachers have the resources they need to do their job well.

Third level: I am appreciated for my contribution
Leaders actively foster a sense of belonging. Encouragement and recognition is personalised. They put a human face on policies and systems.

Checkpoint 2: Is it your priority to ensure the basic needs of your people are met?
Without valuing people, clear systems, policies and training for staff, a leader’s energy is consumed by chaos or disorganisation and probably interpersonal conflict.

Fourth level: We’re on a journey together
As a community we own the vision, good systems are in place and we are able to direct our collective energies to our core mission.

Checkpoint 1: Do you feel like settling?
It’s all humming along nicely now, let’s just enjoy this. The fourth level is considered the ‘false apex’.

The Apex: Higher order change
This is rarely linear, rational or comfortable. It is disruptive, chaotic and tested by ambiguity. Leaders here demonstrate adaptive leadership skills. This is where the disruption happens. Remember: it isn’t actually an end point.

 

slide1

@anneknock

Refs:
Fullan & Langworthy (2014) – A Rich Seam: How new pedagogies find deep learning
(Ch 6 The New change leadership)
Knuth & Banks (2006) The Essential Leadership Model,  NASSP Bulletin, 1 March 2006, 4-18

Innovating learning environments: 4 ways to think about sustaining change

We love the photos of cool learning spaces with funky furniture They are captivating, inspiring, but it is impossible to know the full story from a tweeted photo. Recently I’ve had numerous opportunities to talk about the context for change and  several resonating themes are emerging around people and change:

  • That chair/table/tech won’t be the silver bullet
  • It’s just like Maslow’s Hierarchy
  • How does your garden grow?
  • This is just the tip of the iceberg
30289155395_85ce26a053_o.jpg

Photo credit: Derek Bartels

That chair/table/tech won’t be the silver bullet

When I walk around our school with groups, they take notice of the elements, the physical designs, the furniture and configuration of spaces. One thing that people notice in innovative learning environments (ILEs) is the lack of, or perhaps different thinking around, the teacher’s desk. At NBCS, we have ‘caddies’ in our learning spaces that serve the purpose of storage and provide a stand-up place for student-teacher chat. They have been useful, and have helped to dismantle the barrier and culture that a teacher’s desk creates. They came about through a process of identifying a need, addressing the context and designing a solution. This process is fairly important, as these decisions have greater impact when when there is purpose and intentionality..

It’s just like Maslow’s Hierarchy

The premise of the ILETC research project is: Can altering teacher mind frames unlock the potential of innovative learning environments? I am often curious when teachers say, “Yes, but you don’t know our kids!” This tells me that they think the effectiveness of changing the learning paradigm to be more relevant to the 21st C is dependent on their students’ capacity to embrace change. Rather, it seems to me, that the educators are the variable here. We need to believe that it is up to us, we are the change agents.

My colleague Steve Collis and I put our heads together little while back to (unscientifically) come up with the key concerns we regularly hear around ILEs. These included:slide1

  • Time to plan  
  • Kids off task
  • Acoustics and headaches
  • Back problems   
  • Storage of resources
  • Teaching on display to co-workers    
  • Parent expectations
  • General chaos!

When it’s working well many of us can attest to the benefits of the ILE to student learning: increased levels of students engagement, student and teacher agency, creativity, a sense of adventure. The environment of learning becomes more personal, real and fun.  I have started to think of the change process in terms in the style of Maslow’s Hierarchy, If we address some of these issues like ‘Where do I put my stuff?’ and ‘The noise is giving me a headache’ (both real concerns), it may be possible that teachers can move up the pyramid and reach educational self-actualisation: ‘I’ve never been so professionally creative and empowered’.

How does your garden grow?shutterstock_186549074.jpg

When it comes to the process of change I love the gardening metaphor. We never reach the place of completeness, something always needs to be done and to explain this I like to talk about the garden. Please don’t think this attests to any capacity on my part, no green thumbs here.

When we design and layout a new garden we can stand back and admire our work for about a week before pesky weeds seem to poke through. Then a little later we may need to prune back some branches, from time-to-time a plant needs replacing and there may come a time when we pull out all the plants and start again on that patch. When I gave this illustration to a group this week, one suggested that the lifespan of a garden is about five years. That could be a good way to look how we innovate in schools. Think about what stage some of your key projects are at: Is it time to re-landscape?

This is just the tip of the icebergiceberg.png

When we see the design of an innovative school, or spend a few days there what we see is just the tip of the iceberg. The real work is under the surface. What actually happens to maintain the vision and reinforce the culture? As I think it through I am developing this diagram as a way of thinking about this. We have a vision and core values expressing what we believe about education and learning, we can articulate the ‘mountaintop’ – what might it look like if we get there? To reach that aspiration the hard work needs to happen:slide1

How do we help our people?
Their mindset, feelings, equipping for the change

What are the practical tasks we need to get done?
Roles and responsibilities, protocols around the use of spaces and places, and articulating systems and processes.

 

@anneknock

School life 2030: When the wheels finally fell off the education bandwagon

Which do you choose?

Option 1: Learning in the 2030s has what I need, when I need it, nothing like my parents’ generation. They went to this thing called  ‘school’, it looked like a prison!

Option 2: Yeah, we tried those open, flexible classrooms in the 1970s and then again in the 2010s. It was never going to work, we decided to go ‘back to basics’. It didn’t do me any harm.

whichAs part of the PhD research project Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change I’m immersing myself in reading, my 10,000 hours, creating a new perspective on the world of school. In addition to this, over the past six weeks I have visited maybe 20 schools in UK, Europe and Australia, on the annual SCIL Vision Tour and for some additional work I have been undertaking as part of my role at SCIL. I guess a common theme has been the ‘innovative learning environment’ (ILE), either in aspiration or practice, it’s a global movement. I have concluded that designing and building an innovative place for learning does not magically create an alignment with culture and practice that is consistent with the opportunities the physical space offers, and which then transforms student learning.

This weekend I am reading Evaluating Learning Environments, edited by and with contributions from my new colleagues at Melbourne University (reference noted below). In his chapter on “Emerging Issues”, Wes Imms paints a challenging picture,

The huge open plan movement in the UK, USA, Australia and many other countries in the 1970s pursued a similar goal. Each flourished, each faded and each revisits our consciousness on occasions in the form of a new initiative. Sherman (1990) laments this cyclical nature of education as being a distraction to the point of an illness. Her regret is not so much education’s slowness of change, but its seemingly incapacity to sustain change. That incapacity, she argues, stems from “…pitfalls of bandwagon movements that are born from serious reform efforts but falters with shifts in the political and social climate” (p. 44)

Imms states that “Good evaluation…is the antidote to the sickness of the ‘bandwagon’ cyclical developments in education”. Many of us have often heard the adage along the lines of ‘if you stand still long enough it will all come around again”. It has probably been over the last decade that we have seen the emergence of the flexible, open, agile learning spaces, but now I am hearing of schools where ‘the walls are going back up’ as a political and community and pressures move in.

Can I hear the ‘bandwagon’ coming toward me?bandwagon

Many of us believe in the opportunities of the ILEs and have deeply invested in the conviction that they will make a difference to the relevance, quality and depth of learning for our students, but only  if supported by the complementary pedagogical practices and optimal culture.

So what do we need to do? It is probably too early for me to sufficiently answer that question, but I have a few hunches:

  • Attend to the physical elements of the space, especially the sound levels. Don’t let acoustic treatment be a casualty of budget cuts.
  • Engage teachers in the adventure as early as possible with enthusiasm, inspiration and vision.
  • Provide professional development for teachers – pre and post occupancy, meaningful and strategic.
  • Give teachers time and give them agency.


In 2030, I will have completed my studies and perhaps I will be working somewhat less and most importantly, my grandson who was born this year, will be in the early years high school. My desire is that his school experience is unrecognisable from that of mine and that of his father’s. The only way we can be sure is if we take the wheels of the bandwagon once and for all!

@anneknock

Ref: Imms, Cleveland, Fisher (Eds.) 2016, Evaluating learning environments: Snapshots from emerging issues, methods and knowledge. Sense Publishers

The new normal: Helping parents to rethink success at school (and life) #abundancementality

As much as forward thinking educators are working for change we are still often exasperated by parent expectations of education. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks in 2006 and 2010 were significant catalysts for change in the hearts and minds of many educators but we are yet to really help many parents embrace the need for change. As Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and skills put it (quoted in The Conversation):

Parents are a very conservative force… Everybody wants the education system to improve, but not with my child

GOOD WEEKENDThe cover story in the Good Weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald’s magazine: Testing Times: Meet the tiger parents grooming their young offspring for academic success by Anna Broinowski. This article was particularly focused on families of Asian background and the ‘tiger mom’ tendencies.

In NSW, my state, there are 21 academically selective schools and 26 partially selective schools. Many parents spend a lot of money and much of their child’s ‘childhood’ in cramming for selective school tests. One coaching college boasted that 1033 students earned places in 35 selective schools, no data on those who failed to gain a place. In two states, NSW and Victoria, there are 3000 tutoring business, with an annual turnover of $200-$400 million and only 8% are registered with the Australian Tutoring Association.

We empathise with parents, especially those of us who have had to make these choices, wanting to do the best for our kids. Our own sons, now 31 and 28, both went to government high schools – the elder to the local comprehensive and the younger to a performing arts high school.

Our elder son undertook an MBA after his initial degree and is successful in business. The younger, is working hard to pursue his music and songwriting career, while working as a barista. His HSC mark was not sufficient to earn a place at university after Year 12, nor was it his goal. However, last year, he decided to go to uni, study a BA in literature and is getting High Distinctions and Distinctions for much of his work – maturity and purpose mattered.

We are proud of our kids. They are kind, considerate and wonderful humans. They really think of themselves as lifelong learners, work hard and enjoy life. As parents, we didn’t push hard, they were pretty well-rounded in their social, sport and cultural activities. Today, we like them as people and enjoy their company, and it seems that they quite like us as well.

I want to tell the parents of school-aged children:

that there is more to life than the score/mark to study a course at university, one that they may not want to pursue in the first place.

that the cramming, coaching and memorisation may get their child to university, but won’t necessarily be enough to keep them there.

that raising a contributing human is far more important than being able to tell your social group how well your child did at school.

that things change – even school. Your experience of school should not be the same for your own children.

that passion matters. Take time to discover what does your child loves to do.

that, above everything else, relationships matter. Careers, opportunities will come and go. Our children will face difficult and challenging situations. They will make both wise and unwise choices along the way. But through it all, we want to stay in relationship with them.

We can choose to see life as a broad spectrum of opportunities that match the breadth of passions and interests of humanity, or, as a pie. If I take a piece you won’t have it, or if you take it, I miss out.

Embrace the abundance mentality.

@anne knock

What if school was like Uber? 5 critical disruptions for educating children of the #ubergeneration

UBERUber, on the one hand, under siege from the taxi industry, on the other hand, every second person I speak to seems to regularly utilise the service, whether it’s in Sydney, London or New York. Of course, the under 40s have definitely embraced it. This generation embraces disruption. They don’t watch scheduled TV, they don’t own a CD, and less of them are even bothering to get a driver’s licence. Late Gen X and early Gen Y see the world differently, travel, lifestyle, balance and fair remuneration are their drivers (McCrindle Research).

This is the emerging generation of parents with children starting school in the next few years. The big question is: Will they consider disruptive thinking about the learning environment and context of school for their own child, or will nostalgia inevitably kick in?

In 2011 I was asked to write an ed-op-ed piece for the Sydney Morning Herald. At the time I had raised the issue of nostalgia playing a part in parent’s view of the education they seek for their own child, I wrote:

“Outside the school gate, our young people experience a dynamic, innovative and creative world, yet so often it is a foreign environment… Nostalgia often paints a picture of the school that parents may seek for their children. This picture can be informed by happy memories or the sense that ”it didn’t do me any harm”…” (Knock, SMH, 2011)

I’m curious to know how the Uber-generation will think about school, once they are parents.

This morning, I read an article by James Valentine, a late baby-boomer and technology embracer on his recent experience of Uber:

This is where it started: Saturday night Christmas Party, beachside suburb of Sydney. 1am. Time to go home. Or time to stay and get ugly. We decide to go. I use the m2 taxi app. I enter the address. I enter where we’re going. I book. A tag comes up reading “WAITING FOR DRIVER TO ACCEPT”. Nothing happens.

I wait 10 minutes. Nothing happens. (Valentine, SMH, 2014)

The so-called ‘tried and true’ methods, those with a monopoly on service no longer cut it.

I open Uber. The address I’m at comes up instantly. I tap in the destination, it figures out I want my home address. I book. Instantly I’m looking at a map showing an animated swivelling school of Uber vehicles. Seconds later I get a message from a driver who says he’s three minutes away. His vehicle separates from the school and starts heading to me. His phone number pops up. A little portrait of him arrives. I get  a countdown. Two minutes away. One  minute away. At the moment of arrival, he rings me. We’re already at the front gate.

At the end of this journey, I paid $14. I haven’t paid $14 for a cab journey anywhere in Sydney for 20 years

(Valentine, SMH, 2014)

This is the kind of service and connection that we are now expecting. It’s why AirBnB has revolutionised the accommodation industry and Spotify-like services, the music industry.

So if we are educating the children of the Uber-generation, what might they expect from a school experience for themselves as parents, and their child, that reflects the world we live in. Here are five critical disruptions for educating children of the Uber-generation

  1. Communication: relevant, timely, meaningful and intuitive. Not waiting until the formal reporting schedules for parent-teacher interviews, but setting in place a system for feedback that is manageable and helpful.
  2. Tracking: Following from the previous idea, providing a progress monitoring mechanism that enables real-time information flow.
  3. Breaking the monopoly: While defined outcomes, NAPLAN and formalised testing aid in the big picture, these have now become an industry themselves, rather we need to focus on authentic and purposeful learning.
  4. Relationship: Student to student, student to educator, educator to parent, parent to parent – all these relationships matter. The desired outcome of the clear relationships and roles will reap benefits not only at the individual level, but as a community.
  5. Destination: Taking the students where they want to go, achieve their identified goals and aspirations.

There isn’t a single industry in the world that doesn’t have to deal with this kind of rupture. If the new thing doing the rupturing is better, then the old thing needs to improve. Fast. (Valentine, SMH 2014)

@anneknock

Happy New Year!

Designing effective spaces for working and learning: How to avoid the factory, the treadmill and the waiting room

IMG_2599In my international travels I’ve seen many amazing schools, universities and libraries, some that are visually stunning, but often there is something missing. Designing spaces for effective work and learning requires the connection of three distinct ‘spaces’ – cultural, technological and physical – each in harmony. When one is missing you are stuck in…

 

…a waiting room, a factory or a treadmill.

Cross-pollination is a healthy thing. I look for opportunities to experience new contexts, learn about other sectors and meet people in different professional fields. This broadens the scope of  my experience and challenges mindsets. Over the last 12 months I have enjoyed connecting with James Kemp MD at Amicus Interiors. On the one hand Amicus (which is Latin for ‘friend’) Interiors could be described as a furniture company for office fit-outs, but on the other, and more realistically,

IMG_0016The brand personifies the business and represents the foundation of trust that we place at the centre of our company culture. We are an enthusiastic, friendly team and we love what we do…

We have developed a solid reputation for meticulous care and attention to all our work. This reputation has been built upon an underlying commitment to our clients, to understand, and plan for, the key issues and challenges that surround the delivery of each project.

James visited NBCS and was struck by the similarity of our school and the work of his company, he wrote on the company blog:

Led by the inspirational principal, Stephen Harris, they have created an Activity Based Working (ABW) environment at NBCS for the children to learn, develop and have fun. If you had told me it was possible to have over 180 year 5 & 6 children working effectively (and quietly!!) in one open plan area, I would not have believed you! But when you see it in operation it is truly inspiring.

These children are given the trust, responsibility, the technology and the right support from their facilitators (the ‘teachers’) to excel. Whether they are sitting at desk, on the floor in small work groups, on sofas or beanbags, they are working away with excitement. I loved it. (Read the full blog here.)

I first came across the idea of Activity Based Work (ABW) a couple of years ago after visiting a CBD corporate refit and wrote a few blogs (like this one) about it as I believed that this approach to the work environment had much to inform the educational context, a corollary to James’ inspiration for NBCS informing work spaces.

Amicus InteriorsJames and I caught up last week, to see the transformation of the Amicus Interiors office in Martin Place in Sydney as an Activity Based Work(place). This was my first opportunity to see the new fit out. We talked about how the team are adapting and changing to work in an ABW environment. As with anything that involves people, the shift to change takes them on a journey – no fixed desks, closed and open collaborative meeting areas and close co-location with colleagues.

 

 

In our lively discussions about the places of work and learning, James highlighted the three types of spaces that must inform the effective place of work (and learning):

  • Cultural space – the way we do things around here
  • Technological space – the tools that enable
  • Physical space – the surroundings that support the work and relationships

Each of these play a crucial role to encourage innovation and creativity and foster productivity.

What happens if something is missing?

Factory Treadmill Waiting Room

When we are thinking about the redesign, refit and transformation of learning spaces, how do these three elements interplay? In 2015 NBCS ‘Project Barcelona’ will be complete – a space that is open, social and connecting. It involves new ways of thinking about school, spaces and learning for the 21st Century. Right now we are gearing up to look at what is needed to optimise the space and prepare our staff:

  • Cultural space – how will the community shift their thinking about school and then own and embrace the space
  • Technological space – what tools and infrastructure are required for the space to function as intended
  • Physical space – how will the fit out, the zones and the movement meet the dreams and aspirations for connection

@anneknock

Some other posts to check out:

Putting the legs on vision. Making it scalable, sustainable and enduring

There are some people who embrace change and others have change thrust upon them.

There are a few who are visionary leaders, some who put legs on vision, others who are swept along and a handful who doggedly hang onto the status quo.

Which are you?

I’m one of the people ‘who put legs on vision’. Great vision inspires me to action, then, as I look around I can see:

  • Obstacles to overcome
  • Systems to set up
  • Mindsets that need changing
  • Policies to develop
  • Spaces to change
  • Tough conversations to be had
  • People to encourage

Each of these creates the context that helps the vision becomes reality.

Change needs more than a great leader. It needs a concerted, coordinated and sustained reworking of multiple work systems. (Shea and Solomon, 2013)

‘Systems’, not a particularly exciting word, but unless the vision is surrounded by good policy and systems it won’ be scalable, sustainable and enduring.

Think about the vision that motivates you to action. Imagine a scene that encapsulates the ‘vision to reality’. If you are in education, maybe it looks like this:

2011-03-03_0088The learning space is busy, active and productive. Teachers and students are co-workers. One teacher is alongside a student explaining a concept, another taking a small group in an instructional session. You see a group of students are working together on a project together, excitedly sharing and forming ideas.

There is engagement, it is highly relational and academically rigorous. A community of engaged, motivated and inspired learners.

How do you put legs on your vision?

Have a plan to develop systems, behaviours and attitudes that  are consistent with the vision. A vision without a plan is a dream. It will remain in your head and reach a dead-end. A plan gives direction and grounds the vision in reality. It generates action.

Remember the scene in your mind? Think about it in terms of these eight areas that will keep it moving forward. They are the patterns of behaviour that become the levers for change.

Organisation: Identify the most effective leadership structure that directs, guides and values people. Can the current leadership structure be adapted for the vision or is a new one required?

Place: Establish the physical and virtual environment that maximises productivity, learning and creativity. Can the scene be achieved in the current spaces? Does the furniture work? How does your virtual space serve the vision?

Task: Articulate what the ‘work’ actually looks like. How will this be explained, supported and modelled?

People: Find the right people and equip them. What do the people need to learn, relearn and unlearn?

Motivation: Facilitate an environment that keeps your people motivated and on track – rewards and consequences. How will you recognise and reward embracing the vision and ‘having a go’?

Measurement: Measure what matters. What are the top five areas that matter to the vision?

Communication: Think through and articulate who is responsible for communicating what. How will you manage the message?

Decisions: Authority and authorisations that enable not disable, that bring clarity not confusion. What are the levels of responsibility for complexity of decisions to be made?

Your plan guides strategy.  A vision is not the past nor the present – it represents the future. It’s new, scary and unknown. The only way change will endure is through addressing the work systems that surround the vision.

Shea and Solomon identified these eight elements that represent the essential areas to the plan. Each of these points can be further articulated and developed. If you are committed to your vision, believe in it and do whatever it takes to make it happen. Here is a starting point.

@anneknock

Why innovate? Answer inspired by Ghandi ‘Serving the unserved’

Lasting innovation comes from identifying and responding to need – human need.

We are often reminded that people in developing nations are amazing innovators – living, that is staying alive, on less than $1 per day. Ghandi is known as a liberator and revolutionary of his people, yet he approached the issues of tackling the British colonization with the mindset of an innovator.

While I have been travelling over the last few weeks I re-watched Sir Ken Robinsons 2006 and 2010 TED Talks to see how was are tracking since this call to educational change. I had already come to the conclusion that we need both a top down and bottom up approach to change in education. Sadly, we haven’t come far too far in changing the minds of the policy-makers. Standardized tests and the focus on academic intelligence as the primary measure remains, and this still needs significant work. But simultaneously we need to keep activating at the grass roots of education.

Ghandi faced the problem of British colonization through inspiring innovation in the day-to-day lives of the people, a simple idea that would bring change. Britain controlled the textile industry in India. Heavy machinery was used to make cloth from cotton and silk. But what if ordinary people could make their own cloth? This was the inspiration behind the Box Charkha. A portable (and inexpensive) spinning wheel used for spinning cotton and silk into thread. A small idea, with big consequences.

This simple innovation, inspired by Ghandi was then developed, made into reality, by his colleague. The Box Charkha made it possible for ordinary Indian people to ‘compete with modern industrialization by creating mass individual modernization.’ (Sawhney)

Ghandi’s approach to innovation had two key elements. It needed to be affordable and sustainable. Similarly in education, we need not always assume that to be innovative, there needs to be significant funds attached, but begin as Ghandi did, making important changes at the grass roots, he was able to to more with less. His focus was improving the life of his people, giving them the tools to be able to break from the constraints of British colonization.

Learning from Ghandi there are a few things to consider in getting innovation right

How do we serve the unserved?

Does the vision have a strong human dimension?

Are our goals and milestones too safe?

How do we use constraints to expand our creative capacity?

Are we measuring the right stuff?

Who are we doing this for?

‘Today, technology can be a similar equalizer in our search for economic development or innovation, provided these technologies function to empower the individual.’ (Sawhney)

A synthesis of Ghandi’s innovation applied to education
1. Disrupt existing business models – alter the way schools ‘do business’
2. Modify existing capabilities – break down subject hierarchies and silos, work together
3. Create and source new capabilities – look beyond usual boundaries for input, expertise and ideas

When faced with innovation, there are only two choices
Leverage existing resources in new ways
Change the rules of the game entirely

The choice we make depends on the context. But like Ghandi, if we are passionate enough about educational change, we need to make a start. I was initially discouraged after watching Ken Robinson’s TED Talks to see how little governments have changed, but I know at the grass roots, so many of us who are committed to making schools and education better and more relevant to our young people.

So at the outset of 2013, be encouraged and keep the flame for innovation and change burning. Be inspired by revolutionaries of the past, who, while they were in the thick of it probably doubted the difference they were making.

References
Quotes: What Ghandi, yes Ghandi, taught me about design, leadership and technology, Ravi Sawhney

Model of innovation: ‘Innovation’s Holy Grail’ C.K. Prahalad and R.A. Mashelkar
HBR, July 2010