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Danielle Myburgh @MissDtheTeacher

Danielle Myburgh @MissDtheTeacher

#edchatNZ founder. Education futures enthusiast. Maths & Science teacher. E-learning specialist. Masters student. MOOC maker. Learning junkie. Questioner.

Posted by on in Leadership


Fruit loop: "A mad or a crazy person"

Lone nut: "The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire. The 2nd follower is a turning point: it's proof the first has done well. Now it's not a lone nut, and it's not two nuts. Three is a crowd and a crowd is news."

There are many great TED talks, but the Derek Sivers: How to start a movement talk above remains one of my favourites. It speaks to my inner aspirational innovator, leader and dreamer. And as I have come to learn over the past four years on Twitter, I am not alone. Across the country, and across the world, there are many teachers testing and trying new things in their practice to better meet the needs of their learners. Yet, these same teachers, despite their passionate investment in their learners, are often left feeling isolated, rebellious or disillusioned. They remain lone nuts in their contexts.

Yet, in the online Twitter world many of us have found our tribe.
"Connecting with people who share our same passions and commitment helps in developing our Element. This is our tribe. “Often we need other people to help us recognise our real talents. Often we can help other people to discover theirs.” - Ken Robinson

It is in the online world of Twitter chats and Google+ communities that many of us have found validation for our ideas, transforming us from lone nuts in our contexts, to be part of a movement, a community. And what a phenomenal feeling this can be! It speaks to our ancient human need for connection. I know that moving from a lone nut interested in and experimenting with project based learning to being part of #PBLchat was a huge turning point in my career, as was finding and leading #edchatNZ.

However lately I have been wondering... How do I know that I am a lone nut, an innovator, a leader, rather than a fruit loop? The internet in its epic democratic nature allows equal air time to the lone nuts and the fruit loops, I am equally likely to find a tribe of nuts or loops. On the internet, the Pope, Kim Kardashian, Obama and David Attenborough all have a voice, and democracy determines the reach. And on top of this, there is the fact that we become socialised into the groups we are part of, thinking, without realising, that they way we act, and the things we think, are the norm.

As I experiment alongside educators across the globe in our classrooms with design thinking, modern learning practice, maker education, robotics, coding, 3D printing, project based learning, literacy and numeracy interventions, STEM, STEAM, collaboration, bring your own technology, Google Apps for Education and Office 365, and whatever else you can think of, I am left wondering, how do I judge the merit of my ideas? I no longer subscribe to standard measures of success, they are too often Eurocentric, anti-feminist, outdated, disillusioned, depersonalised, etc. As a result, I need to find validation and measures of success for my ideas and my questions in new ways, because I do not think exams results alone are a measure of success.

So, if I can't count on my internet tribe, despite the genuine appreciation I have for their unrelenting support, and I can't count on exams, how do I know that I am not a fruit loop?

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

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The only thing we do know about the future is that is is uncertain. It surprises us. In our own lives and society, we know that unexpected challenges, problems and opportunities arrive. People and society is faced with everything from poverty and abuse to ISIS, climate change and natural disasters such as earthquakes and tornados. This doesn't even begin to talk about the uncertainty that we have about where technology will take us next. If for just one day, you were not allowed to use any technology that was invented in the last 15 years, what would your day look like? There would be no Facebook, no iPhone, so I would actually have to take a GPS with me. There would be no Netflix. Wait, there would be no YouTube. There would be no Wikipedia. Things are getting serious now. I would probably have to listen to a CD - oh the limitations to my playlist size! Scrutinise any part of your day, and you will notice the enormous influence that technology has had on our lives. Would we have been able to predict twenty years ago just how great the role of technology in our lives would be? You could try and argue with me, but if you just think about how many power outlet points there are in any given room in a house built this year compared to a house built twenty years ago...

Ziauddin Sardar sums up the ideas of uncertainty and complexity in today's day and age beautifully in his must read article, Welcome to the postnormal times; "When contradictions, complexity and chaos combine with accelerating change the only definite outcome is uncertainty"

It seems strange that the only thing we really do know about the future, is that it is riddled with uncertainty. Yet, in schools we seem to do little about preparing students for uncertainty. Instead, we give students timetables to tell them where to be every minute of their day. We tell them the learning objective at the start of the lesson so that they know what to expect and what to learn. We teach to a test or assessments, and we get upset if the questions surprise us. As teachers, we prepare our lessons, plan them out. In fact, how many schools and departments have the planning for the whole year ahead laid out, bit by bit? We are available to help students out when they get stuck. We tell student which strategies to use, what books to read and what thoughts to think. Before students learn to think about uncertain student finances, babies and children, political instability, we ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Then we ask them to make enormous investments in degrees that may or may not be useful as the market is too uncertain to know what will actually be useful. We help students believe that they just need to stick to the plan, and the all will be OK. There is no shortage of articles and research available about the disjoints between education and the workforce, both at a school and higher education level. Is it just me, or are the things that we teach, the ways we teach, actually doing the complete opposite of preparing students for coping with the unexpected and uncertain? And that's without getting me started on the helicopter parents!

I often hear teachers and parents talk about preparing students for the future. However I wonder if we have really thought about what this means. Does it mean teaching and learning of Shakespeare and Pythagoras as we have always done? But much like the economic ideas of continuous growth, that we perhaps try to do it better? Does it mean that we teach students coding and robotics? Perhaps it means that our schools should teach with devices, type those essays on Google Docs? Perhaps even collaborating on a Google Doc? Does it mean that we focus on things such as collaboration, problem solving, creativity, innovation?

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