Vonnie at SouthOz E-Learning is one of those passionate Web 2.0 educators who just keeps on discovering gems that reveal lots of interesting details about the ways information can be tracked. Via e-mail (how Web 1.0!!) she has shown me two new tools of interest, Ekstreme.com and Wizag. Wizag creates a Topic Cloud ( as opposed to a Tag Cloud) and promises to track downmore relevant content based on the Cloud generated from your feeds. I'd have to flesh it out with a few more feeds from my Bloglines before I can really see what it does but the first site gives you interesting results straightaway. Ekstreme.org tracks down where domains are hosted and shows links to a specific URL. I tried out my blog and found some new sites that link to me that don't show up on Technorati or in my referrers. For instance, this blog is one of 9 edublogs on a RSS feed at the Macao Polytechnic Institute. (Hey, they also link to Stephen Downes and Will Richardson too!) I'll have to see what other exotic locations my words of "wisdom" pop up in.
I’m at a conference run by the SACLE (South Australian Centre for Leaders in Education) and the program Leading Learning and Teaching Conference is based on the philosophy that learning is a journey, not a destination. The opening speaker, Ruth Blenkiron is making a point that the edublogosphere has been aware of for a long time now - teachers are no longer the gate keepers of knowledge. What impact does that have on our curriculum and the way we lead other in education? How do we lead teachers in this new frontier?
Paul Cahalan, principal from Nairne Primary School, then spoke about the Leaders Learning Framework. The focus here is on developing leadership in the school setting. He then referred to the five Dimensions of Leadership Learning - (1) Leading learning And Teaching (2) Leading Strategic Resource Management (3) Leading a Quality Organisation (4) Leading And Working with others, all linked into (5) Learning Centred Leadership. Paul poses a great question,” How do you harvest the wisdom of others?” A really relevant point he also makes is how you manage the different stances and viewpoints that teachers have. Teachers are very passionate creatures. How do you get teachers to reflect on their own practice? He poses many questions that anyone in leadership need to consider. Paul also points out that we need to embrace theoretical ideas, and work out what they mean for our practice?
After our morning for break, we then heard from Jen Emery with her presentation, “Continuous Improvement in schools for improving student achievement.” She also used an excellent quote from Ken Blanchard - People without information cannot act. People with information cannot help but act.
She spent some time talking about the use of data and highlighted some of the available data in our system. Data must be combined with rubrics, observations, informal tests to provide a “rich knowing” of where students are in their learning. Feedback is synonymous with results, and tells teachers what was effective in their teaching and the students’ learning. There’s another excellent quote pointed out to me by one of my colleagues that is particularly relevant at the moment. The nature of the complex work of teaching cannot be accomplished by even the most knowledgeable individuals working alone. (Little 1990)
She talked about the importance of professional dialogue and how teaches need to reflect, talk out loud and have their ideas questioned. (Sounds like a powerful argument for all teachers to be blogging.)
Jen has also emphasized the importance of goals - help in the analysis, monitoring and adjustment for improvement. If something is valuable enough, then there must be some way of measuring improvement and it does not always have to be number oriented. For example, how do you measure engagement? You have to link measurement to a timeframe so that is some means to determine achievement. So, what about this Performance Data? Jen points out that data is only a snapshot in time, in the same way signposts are used by a traveler in a pathway to the destination. She points out data has to be used carefully but that assessments based on criteria and rubrics have really changed the nature of assessment. Data = action. Data shouldn't be used to identify poor teachers - there will be other indicators.