Raise your hand if you’re innovative

I think I enjoyed last Friday's Innovative Teachers event at Microsoft just a much as Stuart did. The teachers we meet are always inspiring, and this group of 12 was quite special.

Like Stuart and the teachers, I was also inspired by Guy Shearer's keynote. I've borrowed the title of Guy's talk in the title of this post. (If you said this at one of your school's staff meetings, how many people do you imagine would raise their hands?)

Guy's talk was particularly relevant given the media attention late last week around Robin Alexander's review of the 1988Primary Curriculum in England, in response to the Rose Review. He also introduced some of us (actually, probably just me) to the tool Wordle, which creates "word clouds" that emphasize the most-used words in any text you provide.

Here's the word cloud from the 1988 version of the national curriculum. Notice the words that stand out as being used the most - National, Key, Schools, Stage, and Stuart's favourite, Wales.

2008Now check out the word cloud from the 2008 national curriculum. The difference in the language used is immediate (Wales, for one, is gone). However, is the difference in the classroom as apparent?

The other point Guy made that stuck with me is part of an exercise that he uses at professional development workshops all over the England. He asks teachers and leaders to think back to the kids they went to school with and compare them to the pupils in their classes now. What are the differences between the two? When we had this discussion with our innovative teachers, we discovered that Guy's premise was correct - kids have changed. And the way we teach them needs to change as a result.

I won't steal all of Guy's talk for this blog post - in case he ever wants to speak publicly again. I will leave you with this video, which he used to illustrate the kind of decision making that is going on in schools today. In Guy's experience, schools trying to transform are making lots of decisions, one after the other, without a clear view or where they're going or why they're doing what they're doing. Where does this kind of decision making get schools? What do they end up with?

(You'll see where this process gets Bert and Ernie...with a goldfish in a hat....)

Stay tuned for the next Innovative Teachers posts, where Stuart and I will tell you about the projects that our four teachers are bringing to Vienna. We're hoping these will bring you loads of ideas for your own classrooms.

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