Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Twitter #EdChat Sessions - Chat or Change?

Over the last few weeks I have been involved with the new "Tweetup" #ukfechat which has been established by @mrssarahsimons.

The topic last week was on the issue of swearing and my perception before the discussion was that we would spend the hour agreeing among ourselves that swearing was unacceptable, and that the main outcome of the session would be that we would spend the hour “preaching to the converted.”

As it turned out, just like the week earlier when peoples' views on mobiles in the classroom changed as a result of the chat, my perception was wrong and there were a number of interesting angles that needed to be considered on the topic in a post-16 learning environment…It’s never straightforward is it?!

But my preconceived perception was beneficial, as it allowed me to wonder if and how the chat session might be used as more than a forum for “preaching to the converted.” Could the hour be used as a change agent? Sound ambitious? Ridiculous even?

Affecting Change – MIT Hospital Study
In their book “Switch – How to change when change is hard” Dan and Chip Heath highlight what is required for changes in organizational culture to take place. One example that they use is from MIT’s Katheryn Kellogg’s work in hospitals to encourage Doctors to work less hours, which was a challenge as working long hours was seen as a badge of honour for interns. Please find a link to Kathryn’s work on the following link "A Different Operating Procedure"

Chat Sessions - All the Right Ingredients
Kellogg argues that in order for change to be effective you need to get reformers together and give them free space to discuss their ideas. I would argue that Twitter provides these two ingredients required to affect change – there are a group of early adopters/reformers/people interested in trying new things… or maybe it’s just that they have nothing better to do on a Thursday evening!

From Chat to Change - A Call to Action
As far as I can see, the only thing that is missing from the hospital study is a “call to action.” The hospital study looked at ways to get people to adopt the fact that less hours is a good idea as opposed to working til you drop being a badge of honour? Could chat sessions instigate “call to action” homework to explore new ideas?

But people in chat sessions work at different institutions, with different cultures and within different departments, so any call to action would need to be up to the individual, but what if we said “OK this week I am going to try and do…XYZ” and we can use the blog to highlight our experiences, whether good bad or indifferent.

As and when anyone hits upon a winner then others will see the impact (both at the college and online). There are a variety of positive development that may result from this. These positives will mainly be cultural.

In Kelloggs study the “free space” of the “reformers” created a counter-culture which at first seems counter-intuitive surely we want the same culture across the organization? Not when you are trying to affect change… By getting those who are enthusiastic about the change together and giving them the space then this acts as a catalyst. Don’t believe me?

College Example – Enterprising Spaces
Consider the FE Colleges that have made space for their enterprise initiatives – the Peter Jones Academies and other start up lounges. This may start out as a space where the people who are not involved with it see as “those crazy start up people” – an opinion that may be shared by both students and staff.
However slowly but surely the start up and entrepreneurial spirit that was started by a “handful of wacky people” pervades all aspects of the college and enterprise is built into the curriculum so hairdressers who previously would look for work in a salon will be more likely to start up on her own.

I have seen this work in practice by having had some involvement with an organization called Entrepreneurial Spark (E-Spark) who have created a fantastic space for entrepreneurs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ayr. After 1 year their “Chicklet” Companies have created nearly 200 jobs, made a turnover in excess of £3.5m and secured more than £2.5m worth of funding. All of which has been made possible by the efforts of the E-Spark team to get support from Entrepreneurs, mentors, politicians and banks to achieve their goal of creating a renaissance in Entrepreneurship in Scotland. This approach could even work in some unlikely of places... The Last Mile Programme - Finding Hopein Prisons

Apple for the Teacher – Or #TeachLikeaPirate
Finally there is the example of Steve Jobs who did this with his Apple 2 team. Apple had two competing products; the project backed by the board, the Lisa computer, and the Apple 2. Jobs created a similar counter culture with his Apple 2 team to what Kellogg describes – the team were in their own space, had different ideas and a separate identity... which was how the comment “Why join the Navy when you can be a pirate” came about.

Let’s be Pirates... In fact let’s #teachlikeapirate! You can even read the book and then get the T-Shirt!!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Education! Education! Education! ... And the Yadda, Yadda "We're Listening" Policies

Having just watched Question Time featuring the Education Minister, I thought I'd comment on the effectiveness of education policy and the apparent inability of some groups to listen to some very credible  experts who have some great ideas to the current problems regarding education.
How bad are some of the problems? In “The Social Entrepreneur” Andrew Mawson details his work with the  people of Bromley in Bow. Mawson observes about the political process and decision making that;
“The areas of deprivation in the UK have not shifted a great deal since Dickensian times, and any talk of a new approach of the kind I fervently believe would work has led us to nothing but lots of strategising, meetings, papers, conferences, seminars, websites…and when the money runs out, there is nothing left to show, no tangible results and so, of course, the show moves on”
Every 4 years we have new governments, new manifesto promises, new policies, new targets and the all too familiar “stick and carrot” approach of taking funding away from some initiatives, and providing "incentives" for others, to ensure that the latest “in vogue” governmental priority is met. This can be to the detriment of policies that were starting to produce results.
And it’s not as if educators don’t have some good answers… they have lots of them!
Not only do our educators clock up £7 billion in unpaid over time, but they then take to the many #EdChat Sessions which take place each week on Social Media to discuss some solutions and, on occasion, may also vent their frustrations at not being listened to,  I wonder how many politicians tune in to hear these suggestions from the “coal face.”

The NHS have a Chief Medical Officer who gets advice from medical experts before making recommendations on various health issues… why is there not a Chief Education Officer who does the      same in Education.
 It may be convenient for career politicians (regardless of which party ...or country for that matter) to give it “Yadda, Yadda” any time they are confronted with comments and ideas they don’t like… But its not acceptable to our young  people… Just a quick glance at how depressing news articles and issues around social mobility will tell you that!