Final day of the ICOT conference in Belfast – lots to ponder and carry into the future as I leave. Among the signficant things that happened on this last day was the announcement that the next ICOT conference will be held in New Zealand. I had the privilege of accepting the offer and inviting all those gathered to reconvene in Wellington from 21-25 January 2013.
At the conclusion of the conference I had an interesting conversation with David Perkins re the themes and bigger picture thinking that had emerged for us. David reflected that there appeared to be a much greater emphasis on some of the values thinking and social responsibility issues than in previous conferences. David wondered if this might be a recognition of the fact that, to effect change at a societal level we need to be applying our thinking more strategically, more purposefully and in more 'connected' ways.
Later on, as I was waiting for my plane out of Belfast, I had a similar conversation with Guy Claxton. I was reflecting on my experiences with the ICT PD programme in NZ, and how we have (in broad terms) moved from an emphasis on building indiviudal capability, to building whole school (and system) capability. Guy concurred, observing that in the 'thinking' world the focus simply on 'thinking skills' per se has had its day, and that there's now a much greater emphasis needed to apply this in practical and authentic ways in the contexts in which we live and work.
All of this rang true for me when I reflected on a talk given in one of the final workshops of the conference by Neill O'Reilly, principal of Windsor School in Christchurch. Neill asserted that it's no longer acceptable to tolerate a culture in schools where there is a widely differentiated approach to things like the use of ICT, homework policy, use of inquiry models etc., depending on which class or which teacher you have. He argued strongly for a 'whole school' approach in all of these areas.
This reinforces for me something I've been thinking about for some time now – that our funding, support and design of professional learning programmes we need to be emphasising strongly the 'system' level outcomes from such programmes – not defining outcomes purely at the level of benefit to the individual teacher/participant.