Where are the originals? They're a bit blogged down...

Here was I thinking it was a brilliant idea; rounding up the original board members to get their perspective on how things have changed within the education sector (and at Learning Network NZ) over the last 20 years.

Everyone was keen ... but then ... silence. So obviously my timing is out (busy busy term four / lead up to Christmas etc). Anyway, here's a solution! I stumbled across this letter written by Mark Treadwell (original CEO of WEAC / LNNZ) back in '95. Same issues, same challenges, same aims, even some (or one) of the same staff members! It's worth a read.

My how things have changed!

Here's something I read in the Ministry of Education's NZ Education System Overview: "All aspects of education in New Zealand have undergone transformation in the past two decades, including the areas of governance, curriculum, assessment, qualifications, and teaching and learning".

That's a power of change. And it got me thinking. Two decades is precisely how long Learning Network NZ has been around. Twenty years as a not-for-profit organisation, and still going strong in what can only be described as a radically different landscape. So what’s the secret to LNNZ’s longevity?

Rummaging through the archives, I can only guess that it’s been a readiness to move with the tide while remaining true to vision - which (more or less) is to provide quality professional development, resources and support to NZ educators nationwide. Interesting that my delve into the history books revealed that the story being told in 1992 is pretty much what we are saying today. Which has sparked an idea; what if we were to round up a few of the ‘originals’ (i.e. the first board and staff members of Learning Network NZ – or WAEC as it was known back then) and see what they have to say? Invite them to do a ‘guest blog’ and turn it into a series for your reading pleasure over the next few months. Could make for fascinating reading (all I have to do is convince them to do it!). I’ll keep you posted on that one... In the meantime, I will leave you with one of our latest ads. This not only provides you with the visual element I promised last time, but also reaffirms my ramblings above.  - Danielle

Our blog's back!

Ok, so I know our blog has been quiet (too quiet) over the past few months – but hey, I’m the new girl here and it’s taken me awhile to get my head around what Learning Network NZ is all about. Now that I have (and while it’s still fresh and new), here are a few things I’d like to share...

Did you know that Learning Network NZ is a not-for-profit organisation? Seriously! It’s not about the money, it’s about the love. Clearly we have to remain profitable in order to continue to offer our excellent professional learning, support and networking services to you all... but in the end, our bottom line is about giving back, rather than raking it in. Cool!

Also, did you know that Learning Network NZ has been around for 20 years now? Apparently (as the story goes) back in 1992 a group of passionate, very committed Principals got together and decided they wanted to establish an organisation that would provide quality professional learning support and networking opportunities for educators in the West Auckland region.

That’s exactly what they did – and as a result, from humble beginnings (working out of a pre-fab classroom at the back of New Lynn Primary School as the ‘West Auckland Education Centre’) an institution was born.  Not only has Learning Network NZ changed location a few times and rebranded, it’s also grown and developed over the years, responding to the evolving needs of the wider educational community, and moving on from one-off isolated courses to more in-depth support nationwide. Our services and our relationships and networks with local, national and international educators have gone from strength to strength, and today we’re seen as one of the most innovative and trusted providers of professional learning in New Zealand.

(Personally I am quite taken with this ‘little history’ - I love the fact that things have changed HUGELY over the years, yet the fundamental reason for LNNZ’s being remains the same.)

Lastly, did you know that the team here at Learning Network NZ is awesome?  I have to say it’s great to be working with such a smart, up-beat, humorous, thoughtful and caring group of people. With the amount of work that gets done you’d think there were 50 busy bods running the place, not just five.

Keep an eye out for more musings coming your way soon. I promise (now I'm in the swing of things) I'll not leave it as long before the next one! - Danielle
(PS: I also promise I'll work out how to embed a picture or two, to make it more interesting...)

Reasons .... or excuses? Guest post by John Shackleton

Ask any of the delegates at the NZAIMS (NZ Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling) Conference in May what the highlight was, and they are likely to reply, "John Shackleton!" - he was a real hit.  John spends a lot of time in the corporate and sporting world, but his messages around leadership, coaching and teamwork really hit home for educators too.

So we thought we'd share some of his pearls of wisdom - thanks John!  This article ties in nicely with the upcoming Olympics.  And if you'd like to see more of John, check him out at the APPA Senior Leadership Conference on our YouTube channel and contact Faye Hauwai to talk about getting him along to work with your school, cluster or association.

Do you ever find yourself making excuses? by John Shackleton

I spent most of my teenage years in a swimming pool training to become an international swimmer but I never managed to achieve my ambition. Over and over again I would lose the races that counted by fractions of seconds and so I never got the selection call-up. Now, at that time I knew the logical reasons why I wasn’t making it – they were obvious. I wasn’t tall enough, my hands and feet weren’t big enough and, of course, I didn’t have the natural talent that every top swimmer had! 

I retired from competitive swimming at the tender age of 19 and became a coach but it wasn’t until my late twenties that I started to realise that the reasons that I always used to explain my own lack of success were the same as those used by many of the swimmers I was coaching. Swimmers that I thought had everything they needed to become internationals were using almost exactly the same language as I used to, to explain why they didn’t succeed. Almost 10 years after I retired from swimming I started to understand that those things I had said to myself back then were not reasons at all, they were excuses.

Now when I look back on those days I can see that I had everything I needed to succeed except perhaps the most vital thing of all - self-belief. That lack of self-belief was what caused me to think negatively and expect to fail. Because of the way in which our brains work, once you expect to fail you will start to take the actions that will lead towards that failure and, if you never change those negative thought processes, you’ll end up getting just what you expected in the first place - failure. The only way I could justify to myself my constant lack of success was to give other people reasons why I had failed (or should I say excuses).  Nobody could have argued with the fact that I wasn’t tall enough or that my hands and feet were too small as far as I could see.  Both were irrelevant (although not in my head) but extremely convenient facts of life that I could not change. And as for natural talent – can anyone really explain what that might be?  Looking back I can see that, at the time, I found it especially easy to ignore the superstars that did not possess those attributes I had decided were causing me to fail because they would have disproved my ideas!

I only saw these wonderful truths when I started to study sports psychology and discovered the connection between performance and self-belief. When our self-belief is low our performance will reflect it and we will underachieve. If we can raise our self-belief we will start to expect success and will therefore take the actions that lead to that success. If you play golf you will know exactly what I mean. For most of us, standing on the first tee, about to take our first shot of the day, with a few other people watching us,  will cause enough stress to enable our self-belief to come under attack and start off those little voices of self doubt. Those voices question our skill level, remind us of our recent failures and constantly focus our minds on what other people might think if we don’t perform to our ability. Those voices help us to find excuses for a poor performance. This is true of everything we do in life, not just in our sporting activities. Our performance in anything that is critical to what we define as success, is affected in the same way by our self-belief.

Probably the most difficult thing in this whole cycle is knowing when we are suffering from low self-belief. Others can usually tell by watching or listening to us perform but we often don’t realise ourselves until it is too late and we are already on the path towards failure. But there is help at hand and it is those wonderful excuses that we love to use that can be the evidence we need to indicate to us that our self-belief is beginning to struggle.  Next time you give someone a reason why you can’t do something, or a reason why you did not succeed, or a reason why something is impossible, ask yourself this question: Is this really a reason or is it just an excuse? You’ll need to consider things carefully and to be totally honest with yourself but if you find yourself making excuses rather than providing truly valid reasons  then you know that something is wrong. It is your self-belief and it needs fixing.

When I was 35 one of the athletes I was coaching suggested that I should start practicing what I was preaching. “If you think that good self-belief is what we need in order to succeed, then why don’t you prove it to all of us? Get back in the water yourself and start swimming again”. Well, I chose to accept the challenge and, to cut a long story short, I’m swimming faster today at 52 than I was in my teenage years and I’m breaking National Masters records. I am training a lot less than I was back then, but I am believing in myself a whole lot more and that’s what is making the difference to my performance. Nowadays I find it easier to take on challenges with a positive outlook and if I ever feel like I am starting to make excuses about my performance, I work on my self-belief until I feel I can cope again.

When you find yourself making excuses, it is a great sign that your self-belief is under attack. At that point don’t spend your energy looking for reasons why you can’t cope but work on your self-belief - it will always lead to success.

John Shackleton

How green is your teaching thumb?

The dust is settling after our mid-year 'Cultivating the 21st Century Fluencies' Conference, so I wanted to share a few of the nuggets we picked up from our great presenters.

Lee Crockett opened the conference with 'Literacy is not enough', and reminded us that today's workforce is made up primarily of creative jobs - most traditional white-collar jobs can now be outsourced or computerised.  So cultivating creativity in our students is key; there was standing-room only at his creativity workshop!  Lee also stressed the importance of multi-sensory learning experiences for our young learners. Lee is back for a two-day institute in 2013 - check it out here.

Tony Ryan shared his thoughts on 'The Art of the Extraordinary', inviting us to push beyond our comfort zones and stretch our limits.  If you knew you couldn't fail, how much closer to the edge would you work at?  Tony's strong sense of social justice always shines through and reminds us that, as teachers, you really can make a difference.  He challenged us to 'write our own eulogy - and then live it'.  That's a sure fire way to aim for the best!

Kath Murdoch explored curiosity - what is it, why is it so important and how can we cultivate it in our students?  She shared some cool websites including wonderopolis (they send you a daily wondering) and The Literacy Shed (plus lots of other sheds!) - great collections of resources, blogs and links. Also, check out Kath's recent blog post on Inquire Within.

As well as these great keynote speakers there were over 40 workshops spanning e-learning, literacy, maths, thinking and more - all with a focus on preparing students for life, study and work in the 21st century. Delegates went digital, accessing notes and presentations via QR codes (see picture).

See you all next year for 'It's a Learners' World: Mapping a new Landscape' on 25 & 26 July 2013.  Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Lee Crockett and Joan Dalton are all confirmed plus many more to be added.

Literacy is Not Enough

At the recent annual Hawker Brownlow Thinking and Learning conference in Melbourne we have been listening to experts present on not only thinking and learning but leadership, assessment, and strategies to engage students.

There were many wonderful presenters,  but the stand out presenter of the conference would have to be Lee Crockett

His visionary thinking on 21st century learning environments challenged educators to ask these questions...

* what this is going to look like for the students of the future?

* how do we teach 21st century skills to the students ?

Lee’s presentation style is passionate and engaging.

Here's what he has to say about the 21st century fluencies.

Read more about these fluencies in his new book "Literacy is Not Enough".

Learning Network NZ is thrilled to have Lee present  at our “Cultivating 21st Century Fluencies”  conference on 2/3 July 2012 where he will share 21st century skills that will help students be successful learners for the future.

Different Learners , Different Needs

Carolyn Coil has been in NZ this week working with teachers and school leaders sharing strategies and ideas about how to raise achievement for all students through differentiating teaching and learning.

In the 21st Century global village our children need to be able to achieve on a worldwide stage. This requires teachers to recognise that students have different needs and different interests, and must be taught in a myriad of different ways.

You need to consider things like :
·        The learning styles and modalities of individual students.
·        The pace of learning and the amount of time it takes to accomplish a task.
·        Cultural implications when dealing with school achievement.
·        Levels of ability and /or readiness.
·        And different ways to assess what students have learned.

When teachers can look at individual students, see their needs and plan appropriately to meet these needs, achievement happens. On the other hand, when teachers see students only as "members of my class" there is little individualised instruction and therefore success in learning is harder to achieve.

The good news is that there are many strategies teachers can use to differentiate their instruction. The best approach is to become familiar with a number of these strategies and decide which ones work best considering your students, your teaching style and the learning environment of your school.

Some examples of these strategies can be found in Carolyn’s book, Successful Teaching in the Differentiated Classroom 

Some tips from Carolyn to get you started... 

1.    Start small and work from there
Teachers sometimes become overwhelmed because there are so many strategies for    differentiation and therefore do nothing at all.
2.     Consult and plan with at least one other teacher
Decide on approach that will work for you and try something. Then get together to assess what worked and what didn't.
3.     Engage in professional learning
Find opportunities to learn more about differentiation, either attend a course, read a book or find online offerings.
4.     Approach differentiation both vertically and horizontally

The vertical approach is to look at year level expectations and decide if students need remediation or acceleration. 

The horizontal approach is to give the curriculum more breadth or more depth either through extensions of the regular curriculum or enrichment using student selected topics.

Carolyn says, “Taking the theory of differentiation and putting it into practice in your classroom or school,  is the best way I know to raise student achievement in the 21st century.
                  Start small, but just START...the key word is start. "

Find out more at  Learning Network NZ

Education in the 21st century - what does it mean?

Having just celebrated 20 years as a not-for-profit trust (see our last post), we've been reflecting on the amazing facilitators who we've worked with over the years.  We thought we'd ask them to share their thoughts on what they feel is paramount for education in the 21st century.  So, our gift to you - some great condensed pearls of wisdom from some of NZ and the world's leading educationalists.  We'd love to hear your reaction to these comments - and your own soundbites! 

“Four words: curiosity, connectedness, creativity and courage.   With a liberal dose of each of these ingredients, a learner is capable of just about anything.  No program, no curriculum, no set of outcomes, no resource can teach these things; so much depends on the quality and passion of the teacher.  The 21st century needs teachers who are similarly curious, connected, creative and courageous.” Kath Murdoch (AUS)

“Humility, empathy and risk taking, on the part of the teacher, as we shift to a relevant 21st century learning environment where the learners cultivate the 21st century fluencies.” Lee Crockett (CAN)

 “Explicit teaching delivered with commitment, passion and well-researched knowledge.” Tony Ryan (AUS)

“21st century teaching and learning must be based on a new conception of expertise, intelligence and learning: producing and working with knowledge, not merely memorising it; knowing how to find out, not knowing lots.” Clinton Golding (NZ)

“Expansive education: a growing army of teachers dedicated to helping young people develop the mindsets they will need to flourish in a tricky world - through sharing the results of their small-scale classroom experiments”. Guy Claxton (UK)

“What's paramount for 21st century teaching and learning is quite simple in concept and complex in delivery. We need to once and for all remove 'secret service' teaching from our pedagogy. Let the students into their learning; after all it's their learning!” Gavin Grift (AUS)

“All learning should be authentic, apply to the students’ current life and have immediate transfer.  In addition, teachers and principals need a deep understanding of the emotional brain, how it dictates our behaviour and beliefs, and why positive relationships are essential for learning.” Mike Scaddan (NZ)

“21st Century education would do better to place less stress on final exams, and focus more on continual progress; help all learners (pupils and teachers) develop a growth mindset; and ensure that learning is challenging, inspiring and fulfilling for body, mind and spirit.” James Nottingham (UK)

“Young people will need to have a sense of empowerment and the ability to innovate. Developing experiences in social entrepreneurialism where positive solutions to issues facing our world are discussed and developed would meet this need. ” Andrew Fuller (AUS)

“We are preparing young people for an unknown future in an uncertain world; anything less than skilful thinking and independent learning is insufficient.” Graham Watts (UK)

“21st Century learning is about transfer; i.e. teaching so that students can apply their learning to new and unpredictable situations.” Jay McTighe (USA)

Kath, Tony and Lee will be presenting at our 'Cultivating the 21st Century Fluencies' Conference on 2 & 3 July.  Graham Watts is touring NZ in late July/early August.  James Nottingham is back in NZ in January 2013. Click on the links for more information or contact Sue: info@learningnetwork.ac.nz 

A journey of twenty years ..... and counting

We don't look or feel our age, but we're celebrating a couple of milestones this month. Yesterday marked the third anniversary of moving into our gorgeous new centre, and on 26th April we're celebrating 20 years as a not-for-profit trust. We think that's quite an achievement!

For those of you who don't know our history .... we started life back in the 80s as the West Auckland Education Centre. Many years, different locations and a new name (chosen to better reflect a commitment to supporting educators throughout the country) later, we're still here. Becoming a trust was the best way to secure a sustainable future in an unpredictable world; we've evolved from small, local beginnings to being a connector of educators around NZ and the world.

We wouldn't be here without our numerous supporters: from the visionary principals in the Waitakere Area Principals’ Association who were there from the start, through to the many individuals and organisations that have worked with us over the years. Thank you!

So we're having a party! All educators are warmly invited to join the 20th anniversary celebration at the Learning Network NZ centre in Henderson, Auckland, on Thursday 26th April from 3.00 – 6.00pm. Music, refreshments, old faces and new friends. Contact Maryanne Smith to RSVP or for more information. See you there!