Friday, 30 November 2007
However I nearly always then end up thinking (worrying) about the signs that we consciously and unconsciously project as we take the entire education (not just teaching) force on a rapid journey towards 21st century learning - from 0 to 140 in two years (or less) - the only speed limit we have is our own capacity (as drivers of the project) for change! Nearly every aspect of their world will change and although the journey has already started, the challenge is to ensure that we take everyone on the same road - at the same time where ever possible.
We are learning as we go, we are looking at good international examples, but our journey is unique and we must project the most helpful and constructive signs in everything we do to support all those that work in our education system - all the time. The use of consistent vocabulary (with definitions) is vital and everyone has to have and believe the same road map.
Looking at road signs and thinking about education (again) - interesting!! (Perhaps I should get out more!)
Thursday, 29 November 2007
Whilst we take all best advice, especially from Stephen Heppell and Prakash Nair, we are learning as we go, trying to make the best possible decisions, holding on to the vision and being brave. There is a reality issue though, as we build new learning environments without traditional classrooms (cells and bells), in ensuring that we take all those who will work and learn (which should be everyone!) in these new environments on the same developmental journey. Getting them as ready as possible for a totally new way of working is even more important than getting the buildings absolutely perfect. That is our challenge now - we have eightenen months! The planning continues tomorrow for hours - it really IS a good job we get on well.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
Most students I have worked with over many years love to see staff working on their own ideas and genuinely are interested - the questions and dialogue that emerge can be both inspirational and huge learning opportunities in their own right. There seems to be a reticence about doing that generally as we continue to "compartmentalise" our work in schools. It doesn't matter that at least one of the teachers is an english teacher rather than art - think of the creativity that could emerge of this combined discipline in some lessons, especially when looking at imaginative writing and thinking. There is no one right way to respond in this type of work.
These particular teachers may argue that painting is how they relax and that they don't want to mix work with pleasure, an argument I totally accept and I haven't asked them. However it did raise the question about how we encourage staff to develop their own creativity and use that ability to help inspire students formally and informally.
Saturday, 24 November 2007
This expectation that the environment is neat and tidy is clearly one that we should try and ensure all our young people value and want to incorporate into our learning environments. This really is an important message for all - easy to say but how easy is it to achieve in some school environments? Society, culture, public expectations, ownership - all are key factors that we HAVE to aspire to. It can be the only way forward. Students have to have ownership of their learning environments.
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Why do we almost always do that - even now and even if it doesn't make a lot of sense. The frequent answer of "that's how it's done" really is not good enough in the 21st century!
To read Jonathans' blog click here.
Tuesday, 20 November 2007
Monday, 19 November 2007
Thursday, 15 November 2007
Pictured from left to right: Chief Education Officer; Mrs Shirley Wahler, Chief Officer of the Ministry; Mrs Angela Martins, and Rick Dewar Principal high school architect; owP/p
I am frequently caught talking about how basically you can work everywhere and a variety of working and learning spaces are vital for everyone. Visiting Cayman Brac for a public meeting with the Hon. Minister, a small group of us spent the whole afternoon working hard on notes and a presentation. We did actually work really hard for several hours - the location, with a warm breeze did help though. The view, rather than distract, encouraged us to work - although we did stop to note how inspirational a working environment it was.
Many students work in environments with no view, with windows covered or blocked, even though it is well known that this cramped "low vis" style negativley affects the ingenuity and quality of learning. Teachers who work hard to create these closed environments argue about about avoiding distractions - if the lessons were inspirational and exciting - this would be far less of a problem!
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
The implementation is really having an effect on many aspects of education in Cayman, and the resulting feedback is very very largely positive. You will never please everyone but there is now real structure to the system and improvements being made in almost every aspect of education. The small size of Cyaman makes rapid change possible - but there must be lessons here that can be shared with a variety of other interested countries - we have learnt so much!
Click here to access the National Consensus Document
Monday, 12 November 2007
At another school here, students in their steel pan band rehearse for two hours, three times a week and also for four hours every Sunday. This energy, commitment and determination to really achieve in pan does pose an interesting challenge for us. Many are more committed to this than their school work. The students have proved that if they have a "buy in" they are committed.. What is it we are doing, or not doing that does not engage them in their school work and a passion for life long learning?
There is no passing the buck here - it is about what we teach, how we teach it and engaging the students from the start so they can see the significance and want to be involved. Technology is a key response but not all the answer by any means. Many people still blame the students - get real - we need to really look at what we are doing and how we are doing it - this has to be done really soon before we switch any more off talented youngsters.!!!
Saturday, 10 November 2007
Most importantly, Rick stressed to the audience that "these buldings, as much as any school in the world, will allow endless change in future teaching styles". This was also a key requirement from the initial stakeholder workshops with teachers, educators, parents, the private sector, led by Prakash Nair (FNI) and architects.
The intelligent use of glass in the Global Learning Centres has been one of the interesting discussion points - also to be used as a hurricane shelter, the public here are used to minimal windows in such buildings. The technological innovations taking place in all such building components are at such a speed that, unless we communicate it carefully, people are not aware of them, and therefore do not necessarily trust this move away from "what they know". Again, an interesting communication challenge for us all.
Friday, 9 November 2007
Ingenuity, creative thinking, conversations, sharing ideas, collaboration and discussion happen wherever like minded people find themselves together - they are rarely restricted by the lack of formal meeting venues. Often, these spontaneous interactions between colleagues can result in really high quality creative thinking and ideas. It usually takes little effort to find a small space that has the flexibility to let motivated people work - wherever they are.
Informally meeting up in the departure lounge of Owen Roberts International Airport, Grand Cayman, our architects from two different countries, working on separate education projects, waiting to fly in different directions just started talking and sharing thoughts, ideas and plans - we were really working in one sense.
The whole point though, is that it is no use us knowing how people like to work, unless we ensure we incorporate these types of flexible learning spaces into our new schools. Students are no different from adults - they WANT to work in a variety of ways - they keep telling us that. The design of "cells" or boxes" as learning spaces in new schools really does inhibit indivdual ways of working - we know that also. The challenge is not in the fact we know we need well thought out learning spaces (although they must be designed "very right"), but to challenge teachers to "be brave enough" (my usual quote) to adapt and learn news ways of encouraging students to learn the way they want to. Students will adapt to new style spaces and working styles extremely swiftly - their agility must be matched by the staff! We know that this just has to be the way forward!
I just love working with the motivation and creativity of these highly talented and committed professionals, - they are really just fantastic people and genuinely enthused about the world wide interest and excitement concerning the unique holistic approach to the Cayman Islands education transition plan.
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
Monday, 5 November 2007
However, those just crossing the first of the digital divides are facing an even bigger and rapidly increasing hurdle that is scaring many to death - what I'm calling the "second digital divide". This refers to the massive growth of programmes such as instant messenger services, of "Face Book", "My Space", "You Tube" and so on. For the teachers just getting confident with email and introducing school based software packages to students learning, many have no idea what students are talking about if they get an email saying that they have been "poked", been "bought a drink" or had "fish added to their aquarium".
Some schools are "blocking" these sites, just as some still ban mobile phones - but none of these things are going to go away. Banning them is rather a futile exercise, destined to add enormous stress to teachers enforcing the policy whilst simply making them even more attractive to determined students. To quote one article I read recently - "get used to it - it's not going away!".
Schools (not just teachers) have to find ways to harness the energy, commitment and massive ability of their students in these communication forms. Why not harness the energy of cameras and web browsers in phones? It is really established practice in the more enlightened schools, who already have students on field trips sending photos and text back to school based students during a combined project. Students already do have homework discussions with their peers on Face Book, but have the added advantage of their other contacts contributing, often improving the quality of the work and discussion. They send work to each other and work collaboratively back and forth. Just recently I watched my daughter hold thirteen simultanous on-line conversations, whilst working - and the ideas about course were bouncing between each other, including giving advice on how to approach the project differently. Students are doing it now - its the staff holding them back!
The challenge is developing the protocols, training and ideas for the development of this technology and create the learning environment for students to use it without abusing it. No one has said it is easy but students will get used to it far quicker than most teachers!
Sunday, 4 November 2007
Press releases (when they are actually published) are often out of date straight away, not every one reads the papers. Media adverts are expensive, and there are only so many times one can do radio and television slots. The added issue with these is that one tries to get too much information out at once, and listeners, viewers don't take it all in. Again, there are only so many pubic meetings people will attend to hear progress reports.
The relatively new Ministry blog is just one way - this seems to be attracting quite a few readers - but again not everyone even knows what a blog is, yet alone read it. Giving all teachers an education email means that we can encourage them to read it easily..... the wider community is the challenge.
Our approach to this dilemma right now is to try and just constantly inform and encourage people to keep up to date... Suggestions???
I currently appear to be the main "author" though, with other staff writing from time to time and occasional posts from such key players as Professor Stephen Heppell, Prakash Nair and the architects.
Attending a public meeting with the Hon. Minister yesterday I was pleased to find us continuing to promote the blog with the address advertised on display boards, brochures and x thousand "give aways". However, this really means we have to constantly keep it up to date. I must really must increase the number of authors....... no pressure then!
For those who have not visited the Ministry of Education blog - click here!