I visited the primary school that my son attends today to record an interview with the principal regarding her thoughts about building a learning community in her school. Her comments on what she felt had made her school and cluster model work so effectively were insightful, including:
- the absolute need for a vision, and for time to be spent on getting “buy-in” to this from all stakeholders.
- choosing the right person for position of facilitator – in this case, an excellent classroom practitioner who is confident with ICT
- choosing to work together, across all the schools in the cluster on an imaginative, online, inquiry-based task – from which grew a greater familiarity with the online environment among staff and students, as well as a ‘community’ culture of trust and sharing etc. among the schools
- valuing the experiences of others – intentionally seeking out and supporting staff in opportunities to visit other schools and classrooms, and to bring these experiences back and interpret them locally
- building and supporting professional learning networks, both within the school and online among and between schools – emphasising the significance of being a “professional”
- addressing the pedagogical concerns as well as the ICT ones, in this cluster, the school supported a full-time ICT facilitator, and a full-time “Thinking Skills” teacher who work closely together to develop innovative programmes and support teachers in classrooms.
There are probably more things I’ll remember as I reflect on the interveiw…
…but one other thing that did emerge in the context of this discussion was reference to Brian Caldwell’s new website: educational transformations. Brian is currently engaged in developing innovative learning communities among networks of schools in Melbourne, and in several other countries around the world. His intention is to move this work into New Zealand in the not-too-distant future. Many of Brian’s papers and articles are available in the site – the one that I found particularly interesting is Transformations of Schools Through Networking which downloads as a PDF file. In this paper, Caldwell provides an overview of school networking as follows:
- A definition of transformation
- a summary of policies, practices and possibilities in the networking of knowledge.
A typology of networks and networking is proposed.
- Research on networks is assessed.
- Two concepts that underpin a contemporary view of networking are explored, namely, knowledge management and abandonment, with the latter including abandonment of the traditional site-bound view of teaching.
- The benefits of international networks are described
- a statement on the way forward in the governance of education.
There are many aspects of this paper that I find really engaging, particularly because of the work being done here in NZ with the development of a particular type of school network – the “virtual network”, using video conferencing to connect schools.
I also found the section on “knowledge management and knowledge abandonment” of real interest, although I think I’ll save that for a future blog once I’ve had a chance to digest more if it.