The future of teaching and learning will be driven by innovation

Guest post by Michael Valentine, Head of Online Learning at Hale School

Leadership in education these days requires having confidence and self-belief. The future of teaching and learning is unpredictable and there are no paths to follow because they seem to be being constructed as we journey into this uncharted technological era. Educational leadership in the 21st century is not about achieving excellence in the practises of the past; but about taking a step into the unknown. Those of us who have been around for a while know how technology has impacted on education over the past 25 years. So things have changed certainly; but we haven’t transformed education. It has been the rate of change that has caused many teachers to avoid undertaking or even exploring real transformation; because they had no idea what new innovation lay around the next corner. It is time to utilise what we have already in our classrooms – it is breathtaking. We need to grasp the reality of the technological capacities we have before us today and begin transforming classrooms, schools and teachers. Innovation in education offers incredible opportunities for trail-blazers.

Microsoft 365 is a stunning example of a resource that can change the face of education, now. Microsoft 365 is a highly accessible, superbly functional and free cloud-based platform with the potential to revolutionise rural education for example. The Microsoft 365 OneNote space gives each student vast storage and a canvas for knowledge construction or display of multi-modal work. But it is the capacity to link teachers and classrooms across vast distances where the transformation can be begun with innovative use of this technology. Collaborative online lessons are within reach for every teacher. Collaborative professional forums are within reach for every school. Microsoft 365 can expand the horizons of every classroom and allow teachers to build a learning community that stretches across the world.

In 2014 I have been writing and trialling units with schools all over Western Australia by inviting them into the MS 365 SharePoint site put together for this very purpose. This week I have worked with students from Caversham Primary School and Watheroo Primary School who have their own work spaces on the Future School Project MS 365 site. They have conducted experiments, presented findings using video and OneNote folders filled with photos, information and observations. They met in the virtual classroom with me to discuss their science work and chat about the other tasks based on the gripping opening pages of Anne Holm’s classic “I am David” novel. They prepared video responses to text based questions and explored some historical features from the story. Next week they begin to work collaboratively on a piece of writing based on the opening page of Cornelia Funke’s “The Thief Lord”, featuring a mesmerising scene set in Venice. This lesson is introduced via YouTube using a presentation I created on Power Point Mix.

In 2015 the Future School project at Hale School takes an ambitious step forward.  The project will utilise Microsoft 365, OneNote and Adobe Connect to build a model for online professional collaboration between country teachers of year 6 students, all convened by Hale School. The project will focus on developing a design model for teaching 21st century skills collaboratively by using an innovative and engaging online curriculum as a starting point for professional discussion. This cross sectorial initiative is an exciting utilisation of the power of Microsoft 365 to transform education. It will provide an online classroom, an online forum for professional discussion, student workspaces and an online storehouse of 21st century teaching units to trial and contribute too. It is an innovation that I hope will begin to transform the professional life of the teacher in a small rural primary school.

Below; Students from Caversham Primary School present their water density experiment findings, via MS 365, as part of an interdisciplinary unit based on Chapter 1 of “I am David” by Anne Holm. The Future School 365 SharePoint site is shown with links to each school’s OneNote folders, their uploaded files and the link to the Adobe Connect meeting room visible. A new educational landscape indeed.

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