Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Lifelong Learning Part 1

One of the greatest assets that the best teachers have is that they are lifelong learners. The fact that you are reading this means that you are probably already one of these people. 

Until recently, I thought I was. Whenever I visited schools, for whatever reason, I would sneakily wander into other classrooms and look at displays. When I met teachers I would see what ideas I could pinch and I always went to training eager to learn. However, a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to take part in some training with the National College. Some of the training was fair, some was fairly self-evident and some was inspirational. More than anything else, though, the courses I went on showed me how closed-minded I was about certain things. 

I am a strong believer in the importance of education and come from a family of teachers. Therefore, I have some fairly vigorous beliefs about private schools, home schooling and the role of private enterprise in schools. I am not going to bore anyone about those. During my training with the National College I was surprised to discover that those beliefs had actually caused me to close my mind to some of the benefits that different industries can bring to education. 

One area I immediately looked at was pupil voice. Our children and parents are not clients or customers. However, that does not mean we cannot ask them what their learning is like and how we can help them learn better. Other industries can show us effective methods of gathering that information. We now use surveys (, focus groups and forums on our VLE to ask about improvements we can make. Of course we cannot follow up all of them but at least we know what they want and can try to make some improvements. 

Then I started looking around at examples of excellence in industry and how we can learn from them. So far, I have not wangled a trip to Pixar but, after reading a fascinating article about them in Wired, I read the fantastic book: Innovate the Pixar Way. Now, I have absolutely no idea whether or not the authors have links to Pixar or made it up as they went along but the book has some great ideas about getting the best out of colleagues. Then I looked at motivation by looking at NLP. Loads more fascinating ideas.

I started thinking about what else I was interested in at school. Not surprisingly technology came to the fore. With my colleague @thisisliamm, we set off on our Twitter adventure. Learning from people in education from around the world as well as people from other industries like @GeekDadGamer. I want to bring more gaming into the classroom so, to keep up to date, I started reading magazines such as Edge and Wired. Through Twitter, I discovered the amazing world of TED talks and delved into ideas far beyond that of education. 

It is a big wide world out there and I for one was too close-minded. Too quick to say, without even realising, 'that would not work in a school'. Thanks to the National College, I was able to widen my view and talk to occupational psychologists about focus groups and read about the importance of  failing in order to improve. The downside of this is I now have thousands more sources to look at. Recently I went to Disneyland: Paris and was stunned at the customer service there. As soon as I got back, off to the internet for my next read, Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service. Even if I only get one idea about improving learning it will be worth it. 

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