Leave your hat on!

Wearing too many hats is often cited as problematic when you are trying to grow your business. Sometimes businesses endure unnecessary strain simply because the right people aren’t responsible for the right jobs.

In some cases, it can impede growth or even result in a net loss for the business.The solution recommended by most business advisors is to re-structure the workplace. Restructuring roles and responsibilities in the business and assess your company’s activities in the marketplace.

The Extra-Extra-Curricula Hat

Schools however do not operate in the same flexible way. Most teachers do take on extra-curricula activities such as organising fund raisers, taking to soccer team, coaching the debating class or going to camp – these are our market places. We attract students to them through our marketing. Students join the ‘team’.

Successful training requires not only the acquisition of new skills, but also the maintenance of them. As staff refocus, and learn these, there is a performance dip, as everyone tries to come to terms with new work practices. The innovation generally has to come from within.

The Trainer Hat

A school that has embraced Web2.0 and Open Learning approaches – requires even more maintenance.

Right now I think that there are very few lucky enough to have the title, Educational Technologist, or ICT Integrator. Some schools do not have an IT Manager let alone some specialist ‘support’ staff in the classroom.

The Joiner Hat

The too many hat syndrome is a by product of becoming an advocate for change from 20th Century to 21st Century Learning.

I think that schools need to CLEARLY define what they mean by ‘professional development’ and ‘extra-curricula’ – as traditional notions of these ‘extras’ are no longer true of many teachers.

I have a form to fill in right now about ‘PD’ this year – how do I explain it? – 140 characters or less maybe.

The IT guy Hat

Technology is in itself not an automatic provider of 21C learning. In fact, in a recent Elluminate session with Will Richardson and Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach, the 40 or so Australian teachers, when asked to define ‘what 21C learning is’, put ‘technology’ very low on the list.

The all weather Hat

We gladly pull on the new hat without really thinking it through. Our enthusiasm to refocus our learning and restructure pedagogy is extra-curricula professional development and invisible/misunderstood to many administrators and executives – who don’t read blogs or write them.

The blogger Hat

Why bother edu-blogging at all? At some point you need your new hat collection to be recognised as important – both to you and your school community. Job change, career move, success, parent communication, peer engagement … there are lots of personal reasons that make it important to have a blog – and relatively few not to. Having a blog also encourages you to read blogs and makes you much more likely to go read a book. The more you read, the more you write – the more you THINK about learning.

The Butterfly Hat

I take input from a range of blogs. Sometimes I like the content, sometimes the passion and sometimes just the style of the writer. More often it is a combination. One non educational blog I read is Seth Godin – which is a marketing and design sort of thing.

I see a lot of similarities between marketing and schooling right now, maybe that’s just me, but some of the statements that Seth Godin makes influence my thinking.

Trying to convince a CEO of anything is a little like trying to convince a cop not to give you a ticket. It’s possible, but rarely worth the effort, given the odds. Seth Godin

I saw that as significant when thinking about trying to build capacity and change schools.

In another post, he talks about ‘critical mass’ and ‘short cuts’ – something a lot of us are trying for in our schools to kick start change. When I look at the vast range of ‘tools’ that edu-bloggers can throw at teachers it made me think about how I was going about it.

Every day at Squidoo, thousands of people build pages. And most of them lose interest and fade away. But a few stick it out and many earn $2,000 or more a month in their spare time (for themselves or for charity). The difference is clear but sad. The shortcut didn’t work right away, so they’re off to the next thing.

If you have a presence on twitter, squidoo, blogs, facebook, myspace, linkedin and 20 other sites, the chances of finding critical mass at any of them is close to zero. But if you dominate, if you’re the goto person, the king of your hill, magical things happen. One follower in each of twenty places is worthless. Twenty connected followers in one place is a tribe. It’s the foundation for building something that matter.

I thought this was more applicable to school, not so much the ‘blogosphere’. The ‘goto’ hat is probably the hardest to wear. In the metaverse you can be a very small fish, but in your school, you can be a tribal leader. To a small group, you are the ‘goto’ person for a while, but at the same time, you are also seen by other tribes (and schools are tribal) – as a serious concern.

In order to balance out your extra-extra-curricula life with your real job, blogging allows you to create a record of showing that your are working towards better professional practice, connecting with others and demonstrating changes in your practice in a neutral zone.

When reading a blog, I hope to find ideas, stories and things that challenge my own.

What do all these hats say about you?

I think that the 21C Teacher has certain characteristics – and a blog is the evidence of that.

  • Uses technology to support learning in and out of the classroom
  • Undertakes self-directed professional development in learning communities
  • Provides peer coaching and support – to teachers outside of their school and within
  • Is a teacher
  • Is a learner
  • Engages in student centered learning activities, using freely available Web2.0 tools
  • Is an integrator
  • Shares experiences with others online

In doing this, they will talk about the following things

  • The shift from prescribed passive to authentic read/write activities
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Inquiry based Learning
  • Connected Learning
  • Media Literacy (not information literacy)
  • Creating ‘content’ not ‘copying’ content
  • Develops a sense of mystery and wonder in learning
  • Explores online communities and rethinking how to use technology in multi-modal ways

How does this change the HR process?

As schools, systems and governments all seek to define and build frameworks around ’21C Learning’ – the need to build capacity is critical. Putting the 21C teachers, or the tech savvy ones in postions to under-pin the less conversant is a terrible strategy. If a teacher is wearing the ‘new hat’ and demonstrating vision, leadership and understanding of the characteristics, then surely they are better employed as Peer Coaches not ‘under pinning’ roles. Time served to me, is no indicator of a teachers passion, innovation and engagement with students, just as people agree that exams are not the best indicator of student ability.

Blogging to me, is the resume of the 21C teacher.

  • Personal reflection on specific achievements and frustrations
  • Evidence of leadership in the wider learning communities online
  • Ability to refocus ‘skills’ and ‘tool’ to provide ‘deeper’ learning opportunities
  • A range of visible profiles in Social Networkss.

I think that ‘blogging’ your story, your extra-extra-curricula work and sharing that is probably the most important record of professional development right now – and the most effective way of getting you/me/us to challenge each other and make change in schools not only sustainable, but enjoyable and exciting.

If we’re not excited about the potential of learning, we can hardly ‘demand’ it from our students.

I have had three hats at my school – IT Manager, Integrator and Teaching and Learning Designer. The first one is what I did officially, the last one is what I really love to do.

As of the 10th of November, I’ll be moving my hat to Head of Teaching and Learning Design at Macquarie University in Sydney, which is exciting. So I really hope that someone at my school will take up the blogging of what is happening, but if they don’t then I am sure that student’s like Tanuj will do it.


One thought on “Leave your hat on!

  1. Very insightful and creative post.
    I would like to share this post with others.
    Is the title:Leave your hat on! (you?)
    Could you please do a quick fix?
    Would be interesting to explore the concept of your “hats” intersecting with De Bono’s Thinking Hats.

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