“A unique skill set is still needed, but this skill set is more around management of the technology and extending the personalization of learning, rather that the teacher holding forth as the instructional lock step sage on the stage.” – Australia

“As a teacher I have always been keen to engage students in authentic learning activities by building a scenario and letting them work out the required response,” says Max Drummy, a Professional Learning Leader in Australia. “This has often led to unusual (non-mainstream) student solutions; indeed innovation on students’ behalf has often forced me to adjust support and teaching strategies to make sure we squeezed every drop of learning from every scenario.”

Drummy, a former educator an assistant principal, currently provides teaching and learning with and through technology. Drummy writes a blog, and is also a leader of the “So What?Project,” a unique pilot project currently running in sixteen Tasmanian schools and colleges. The So What? Project is critically designed to enable and facilitate the meaningful embedding of ICT in the learning process and the school culture, so as to add value to every student’s education.

And Drummy has seen some great results from his approach – in fact, he won an Innovative Teacher award at the Partners in Learning Asia Pacific Forum in New Zealand. “The modeling in my doing this has been a significant motivator for other teachers to begin to investigate possibilities for expanding their own practice,” says Drummy. “I have been able to demonstrate that whilst innovation can often stretch thinking, it really doesn’t hurt! And it is ok to try! And you can still assess rigorous curriculum-based content!”

Here, Drummy gives us his perspective on the use of Skype and OneNote, and why a holistic approach to innovation makes all the difference.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

As a Leader of Professional Learning, I have had the opportunity to encourage, influence and support a significantly greater number of teachers and leaders than I could in a school. Again, modeling and scaffolding innovative practice, connected to the daily relational work of those attending the Profession Learning (PL) program, has been a critical lever in influencing change. Building and nourishing networks of colleagues with common intent has been a significant lever for supporting the development of innovative practice in leadership, teaching and learning with and through technology. As I work across and within my own networks, I am able to connect those I work with to resources of varying nature.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

Certainly within my sphere of influence in Tasmania, there is a significantly increased understanding of the capacity of the collective to shape educational opportunities. Collaboration between teachers, within and between schools, when constructing curriculum has grown significantly. Certainly the use of Microsoft OneNote has been a critical factor here. We now see many schools using it at different levels, from administrative and organizational to teaching and learning. It has changed the way schools operate in several cases. The idea of embedding technology into school improvement planning as a value-added tool, and as a bolt-in, not bolt-on, has had critical success.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

What are the enabling conditions?

* Intentional planning
* Strong research base and theory of changePL grounded and connected to daily work – action research model
* Ongoing support and connectedness
* Celebration of success

One of the factors that had brought success is the highly intentional nature of my work. The So What? Project modeled this really well. The selection process was rigorous around assessing the level of readiness of schools to enroll. If principals were not prepared to demonstrate how technology could bolt in to existing practices, and how they intended to pursue and implement change, the program was not for them.

A significant enabler is also the understanding that professional learning is much less effective as an “event.” So the delivery model of our programs is long term, action research-based and involves reflective practice. Spaced learning modules are followed by implementation in the classroom, collaborative scrutiny and support.

Connecting like-minded individuals and schools, nourishing needs and celebrating best practice has also been a feature of my work.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

The use of Lynx and Skype, as well as Elluminate, have enabled brilliant collaboration and communication without travel, bringing people together to collaborate on curriculum, discuss challenges and solutions, share ideas and build strong relationships. Similarly,
use of OneNote has enabled the building of rich resource repositories, and shared student construction of learning. The Sharepoint that I manage hosts dynamic content for over 650 users; again OneNote workbooks being the mainstay and collaborative backbone. None of this existed three years ago prior to my work across the state.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Reshaping teacher and leadership practices to reflect a focus on 21st century skills and capabilities. Shaping pedagogy and practice that enables contemporary learning opportunities. Changing the way technology is used in instruction – indeed the notion of instruction itself moving from teacher to student centered. Using the SAMR model to build consciousness of the need to shift practice.

What is your region doing well currently to support education?

Aligning vision with practice. Tasmanian education is currently critically aligning systemic and local vision, resources and practice. This has not been without pain. But the clarity driving and thinking behind the processes will build a strong foundation for our system for many years to come.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

I believe that as the shiny newness wears off technology, we are beginning to see emphases shift to focus on pedagogies that incorporate technology to influence both student engagement and more directly target student outcomes. A unique skill set is still needed, but this skill set is more around management of the technology and extending the personalization of learning, rather that the teacher holding forth as the instructional lock step sage on the stage. Technologies, used to facilitate and activate the appetite for learning, must not be an appendage to be attached at any (in)convenient stage during the course of instruction or in broader educational practice. Embedding them successfully must include work building understandings of digital pedagogy and the application of action research findings to strengthen and build capacity and sustainability in teaching, learning and leadership.

So perhaps the skill building, expansion and omnipresence of technology are building blocks for the construction of new models of how, where and when we utilize technology –in this context, for teaching, learning and leading. Technology provides ways and means of connecting students and teachers to their peers, regardless of location. It allows exploration of opportunities for learning on a scale we have not had before. It allows students to demonstrate understandings in new ways. But it requires Learning Activities, and in fact schools, to be (re)constructed intentionally to allow the seizing of these new opportunities.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Find like-minded colleagues, form a network, collaborate around building best practices, stay informed by current research, and the best practices you can find. And in general, don’t be afraid to experiment in the margins!

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

The trend that annoys me most is the mashing of old teaching paradigms with technology. An example – students are given an assignment – “research this….(or just Bing it), write it up (in Word…). Now spend six lessons making it look pretty in PowerPoint.”

For me that example is too common and too real. It still happens.

My questions to reshape that scenario would be:

* What do students need to do to demonstrate understanding?
* How could they apply understanding in the real world?
* How, where or when might this understanding impact others?
* Is there an opportunity to synthesize new knowledge from this exercise?

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

A teacher prepared to use the LEAP21 framework to explicitly build curriculum that allows and requires students to develop 21st century skills and capabilities. A teacher prepared to
co-construct learning and recognize the power of the student voice. A teacher who is resourced, connected and can inspire students to construct their own future.

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About Max Drummy

Birthplace: Melbourne, Australia
Current residence: Launceston, Tasmania
Education: Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) Graduate Certificate in Education (Grad Cert Ed. Leading with ICT) Master of Education (M. Ed. School Leadership)
Website I check every day:

  • As a (free) subscription: ASCD smartbrief, available at http://www.ascd.org/
  • As a source of inspiration, resources and light relief, my twitter
    feed and the Twittersphere (@maxdrummy)

Person who inspires me most: Jamie Oliver. Yes, I enjoy good food, but Jamie has made a huge impact thinking locally and acting globally. His tenacity, willingness to stretch commitment to extraordinary levels, and work to scale effective and influential initiatives inspires me.
Favorite childhood memory: Sailing and swimming with dolphins in Lake Victoria, Gippsland, Australia. In a sleepy, brackish, bush haven backwater, I spent many hours on the water in wooden kayaks and Mirror sailboats dad and I built in our garage for the school camp, which he managed part time. I am so thankful that the concepts of OH&S and the notion of educational litigation had not really surfaced in Australia, because I am sure that the things we did back then would not even be tabled as possibilities today!
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): ACEL 2012 Conference, Brisbane, October to present a workshop on the professional learning model behind the So What? Project.
When was the last time you laughed? This morning as my young school daughter ran around the house with her skivvy over her head bumping into things, for no apparent reason other than it looked like a fun thing to do. The appreciative innocence of kids
always makes me smile!
Favorite book: The Hobbit, and then the Lord of the Rings Trilogy grabbed me at about 12, and haven’t relinquished their hold! Professionally, Jim Collins’ Good to Great floored me! It initially drew together so many threads from both professional reading and personal experience, and now continues to provoke and provide models and frameworks that scaffold the learning and leadership programs and opportunities I am involved
in developing and delivering.
Favorite music: Anything with a shade of the Blues – from Adele and Etta James to (Aussie icons) Cold Chisel, Buddy Guy and Deep Purple!
Your favorite quote or motto: “If we always do what we’ve always done….we’ll get what we’ve always got (sic).”  -Anthony Robbins. Enough said- now Just Do It. (sorry that’s 2 😉

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