“Invest in people not programs. There are no simple solutions to the complex educational challenges. People who are equipped to lead innovations that meet the unique challenges of their context will make the biggest difference. Invest in developing teachers.” – David Faulkner, Australia
As the saying goes, change is never easy. But some people have a knack for leading change, and inspiring others to innovate for good. David Faulkner is one of those people.
Faulkner, an award-winning former principal and school director, founded Education Changemakers along with social entrepreneur Aaron Tait. Their mission is to end education disadvantage – specifically in underserved or remote areas of Australia – by helping other educators become “high-impact Education Changemakers.” They do this through unique workshops, ongoing support and social media partnership, and coaching.
On Twitter, his personal blog, as well as the joint Faulkner/Tait blog, Making Shift Happen, Faulkner leads discussions, provides guidance, and gently pushes his audience to “Make A Difference” (in fact, Faulkner has been called the “The M.A.D. Man” due to his passion and obsession with ‘Making A Difference.”).
Faulkner’s energy is infectious. Enjoy!
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
Throughout my time as a principal, director and now through my work with Education Changemakers, I have been part of implementing many innovations to improve outcomes for students in underserved communities. These include introducing new technologies, creating increased access to school for students, implementing new locally relevant
programs to improve participation and creating relevant professional learning for teachers and leaders that leads to real and meaningful impact.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
These innovations have seen dramatic improvements in student learning outcomes, student attendance rates, community partnerships with schools and students’ access to high quality education. At Education Changemakers, we have seen a movement of high impact teachers and emerging leaders inspired, equipped, connected and supported that are getting some outstanding results for their students in their unique educational settings.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
A few key things that people who are facing challenges can implement:
1) Invest in people not programs.
There are no simple solutions to the complex educational challenges. People who are equipped to lead innovations that meet the unique challenges of their context will make the biggest difference. Invest in developing teachers.
2) Listen to the locals. The best solutions come from the people and/or students you are working with. Rather than implement an idea you have, build ideas with the students and the communities. Get locals to author the solutions with you.
3) Take action. Spend less time talking about what needs to be done and get on with doing it. We have enough people who tell it like it is… tell it like it can be and take steps to do what it takes to get there.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
Technology has been an important part of all the work that I have done to improve education for disadvantaged students. We have used technology to improve access to quality education for students in remote, disadvantaged areas of Australia. This has included the use of 1:1 devices, broadband Internet, blogs, online student forums and curriculum, interactive whiteboards and relevant and highly engaging software. We have also increased professional learning opportunities for teachers through online platforms and online professional learning networks that enable sharing of ideas and innovations. In the Barkly region (one of the most geographical isolated education regions in the world), we utilized technology to overcome the tyranny of isolation and distance, improving outcomes for some of Australia’s most disadvantaged students.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Simple. Getting the best quality teachers to work in the places it matters most, our underserved communities. Then, inspiring, equipping, supporting and connecting them to make the difference.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
The development of a national curriculum is a good step. Also providing support through the National Partnerships program to enable improvements for disadvantaged students.
What conditions must change to better support education?
Education needs to be seen as a social justice issue. To support the best teachers to work in the places it matters most. We need to improve on our recruitment strategies to get the best teachers and then support them to work in our underserved communities.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
The best opportunity for innovation is to utilize technology to give all students the access to a quality education. To do this we need to support and develop our teachers to be
innovative. The technologies are not enough as they are just tools of innovation. People need to be equipped to use them to be innovative.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Focus on personalizing education. Get to know your students, parents and community and provide a high quality education that is relevant and useful for them. Through personalizing education we give students the tools to contribute to the world and enable them to reach their true potential.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
I think that the increased use of technology and social media is helping students to access information and increasing opportunities to collaborate in meaningful learning globally.
The trend that is placing increasing demands on schools to be responsible for all student outcomes is a problem. Great learning involves great partnerships with schools, the students, the family and the wider community. The outcomes of our children are everyone’s responsibility.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
The Internet. Not every student has access to it. The Internet gives any child access to education globally and enables them to collaborate with others. If every child had access to the Internet they have would have the opportunity to independently improve their learning outcomes.
- Birthplace: Perth, Western Australia, Australia
- Current residence: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
- Education: Bachelor of Education (Primary and ESL)
- Website I check every day: Seth Godin’s Blog
- Person who inspires me most: The anonymous extraordinaries that I work with across the country.
- Favorite childhood memory: Camping out in the outback with my family
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Muswellbrook, NSW Australia
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? I laugh all the time. Watching ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ repeats last night on TV.
- Favorite book: Lucky Man: A Memoir by Michael J. Fox
- Favorite music: U2
- Your favorite quote or motto:
“The person with a why can endure almost any how.”
“If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got.”