Well I survived my first Frog Conference!
Over 800 people descended on the ICC in Birmingham on 14th June for the National Learning Platforms Conference. It was a particularly exciting day for me as we launched Frog’s School Improvement Programme – the thing I have been working on pretty much since I joined Frog in January.
It’s so nice to be able to talk about this openly now! The programme contains a framework which is an online tool for all Frog schools to help them assess where they are on their journey with Frog and plan their next steps. It also includes a built in social network to encourage sharing of good practice. We find that it is a lot better for schools to help each other than always come back to us at Frog as ultimately schools know best about what works and what doesn’t. Click on the logo above to see Gareth Davies, Frog’s MD launching the programme at the conference.
Here is a short video with some of the pilot schools talking about the programme:
One section of the framework site contains the fun ‘Frog Trumps’ database – a collection of inspirational ideas from schools around the country demonstrating how they’ve used Frog or other technologies. At the conference we gave delegates the opportunity to collect 10 Frog Trump cards – it was great fun! We were also delighted to receive over 70 submissions of ideas that we can add into the database on the day.
I spent most of the day showing people the framework site and how it works so unfortunately missed the workshops. However, all the workshop videos can be viewed here: http://www.frogtrade.com/index.phtml?d=2290152
You might know that I was liveblogging on the day. I particularly enjoyed the keynote speaker David Pearl. In his opening speech he said at the beginning that by the end of his talk we would all be singing! Here’s what I managed to capture on my iPhone:
There was a powerful message in this about fear of change and what happens when you do take the plunge.
His most useful comments, however, I felt, came at the end of the day. Firstly he helpfully summarised some of the themes from the day:
“We are smarter than me!”
A cheesy expression but true all the same. I was delighted to hear him mention this first as this is exactly our aim with the School Improvement Framework – we want schools to help themselves and each other and the framework is a tool we’ve given schools to help facilitate this.
Be aware of learning outside school
“80% of learning happens at home!”
I think this is more likely to be “80% of learning is non-formal” but the sentiment is right.
Having a learning platform like Frog enables schools to encourage independent learning. Pupils are developing really useful enquiry skills as the first thing they do when they get home from school is log on to their computer. We’ve heard some brilliant stories of students helping each other with their homework using the social networking capabilities of Frog! For example a kid might write on a class wall ‘I don’t get this homework’ – other children have then stepped in with their ideas. No school should underestimate the amount of learning that goes on outside its walls – it’s often deeper learning that what is happening in the classroom!
Classrooms all a-Twitter
“People are overcoming the fear of using social media in the classroom and quickly!”
I was gutted I missed hearing people talk about this as it’s something I’m really interested in. However, it was clear that quite a lot of schools, rather than ban Facebook have begun to integrate it into their learning platforms – yes, you read that right! I hope to find out more about how Frog schools are doing this – when I do, this will be the first place I write about it!
Lock up IT!
“One day a week lock the door of the IT support office so that the IT team can develop stuff on your learning platform!”
It’s easy for IT teams to get bogged down with the constant stream of requests for help from staff and students alike. This is a great tip, if you don’t free up the time to do it, your learning platform can never develop. Just as teachers need time for quality CPD, so do IT support people. I’m always inspired by the Google model which gives a large percentage of work hours back to their staff to do with what they will – if you give creative people the space they will create amazing things!
Finally, I found David Pearl’s closing tips really useful on how to go back to work enthused:
There is no ‘out there’ out there
– the solutions are with/within you
The way out of whatever problem you have is within your grasp – it’s not out in the ether somewhere. This is a hard thing to realise I think.
Bad habits have good reasons.
When you’re trying to change a habit remember there was a reason for you to start the habit – it made sense once. Acknowledge where bad habits have come from and then show how you’ve outgrown it now.
I thought this was a brilliant point. David used the example of smoking. The habit was started for a reason – perhaps to look cool, feel more relaxed etc. If you just walk up to a smoker and say ‘stop smoking’ they will tell you where to go! If you talk about why they started and then outline why it would be a good idea to stop you’re more likely to be able to help them. David Pearl pointed out that this is the same with change management – acknowledge the origin of certain ways of working and then explain why they are no longer relevant.
Pronoia is the unreasonable assumption that everyone you meet is on your side! It gives you energy.
This was my favourite point. If you go around expecting people to turn you down, they probably will! I was invited to a meeting a while ago and the person inviting me said “this is going to be a really bad meeting” ! Well that made me want to go along of course! I gently pointed out that if he’d already decided it was going to be a bad meeting, it probably would be, in which case, I’d rather not attend!
Bring back the buzz with you. Don’t talk about it, be it! Be the same way you were at the conference back at the ranch – don’t just show the photos!
The point being made was that instead of raving about what people have missed, it’s much better to try and live out some of the things you learnt, put them into practise – it might be catching!
Right, I’m off to be pronoid about everything!