Saturday, 15 October 2011

Steve Jobs: calligraphy and connecting the dots

Listening to a replay of Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford University I was struck by the importance he placed on following your passion. He never graduated from university but dropped out and then dropped in to courses that interested him. One of these was calligraphy.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
You can't connect the dots looking forward; yet this is what education bureaucrats, politicians and media commentators expect teachers to do. Any teacher knows that we can use evidence to inform out teaching practice, plan detailed lessons, teach effectively only to have the lesson derailed by a kid who is out to lunch with his or her behaviour. I'm going to use this quote - " can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards."

Monday, 26 September 2011

Debriefing questions for lesson professional development

Last week I worked with three teachers to explore a professional learning model using a truncated version of lesson study. The model is called a triad, even though it's a quartet if you include me as facilitator.

The teachers planned a lesson on using metaphors and took turns to teach, observe, reflect and revise as a group

Each time we revised the lesson it got tighter and each teacher had ownership of it, which was referred to as "our lesson".

Below is a list of our debriefing questions
1.    How was the lesson planned?
2.    What worked well with the planning?
3.    What changes would you make for the next planning session?
4.    Was the lesson goal clear?  Were the Learning Intentions and Success Criteria displayed? Did the sequences of learning contribute effectively to achieving the goal?
5.    Was the flow of lesson coherent?
6.    Were the materials helpful in achieving the goal of the lesson?
7.    Was the lesson chunked into digestible bits or episodes?

8.    Was the lesson appropriate for students’ level of understanding?
9.    Did the classroom discussions help promote student understanding?
10. Was the lesson differentiated? If not, how could it be differentiated?

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Literacy Coordinator's role at a P-12school

This afternoon I wrote some notes on my work as Literacy Coordinator at a regional P-12 school and thought there seems to be a lot of things the job requires me to do. In the interests of sharing the information I've listed the role below.
Literacy Coordinator  P-12
Key Role: to lead, coordinate and monitor teachers, students and programs in Literacy Education P-12 in accordance with MEC Strategic Plan. The purpose is to ensure that literacy improvement is a continual focus, so all students can achieve and all teachers can teach to high standards.
Responsible to: Principal
  • Coordinate literacy across the school as a key leadership position
  • Research best practice; use evidence based teaching to identify priorities for development
  •  Develop, review, revise and implement with school staff, a 2-4 year Literacy Plan
  • Review and manage multiple sources of data. Use data to direct teaching and learning resources.
  • Give feedback to show positive, static and negative change 
  • Promote and model best teaching  and learning literacy practice across the school 
  • Assist domain areas to develop effective strategies and resources for improving literacy
  •  Facilitate classroom observation
  • Coach teachers  to use evidence based teaching practices in literacy
  • Contribute to Regional and Network Literacy Coordinator workshops
  •  Present the Regional Modules to staff
  • Provide Professional Learning to enhance quality literacy practices across all domains
  •  Liaise with other Literacy Coordinators in the Network and across Networks
  •  Use the Network Literacy Improvement Officer (NLIO) as a resource to assist with all aspects of Literacy Improvement in the school
  • Be the point of contact for the NLIO to distribute information and resources to staff
  • Oversee classroom literacy programs
  •  Promote literacy in the school and school community
  • Work with year level teachers to plan, monitor and resource literacy programs