Learning, changing and growing

For the past year I have been working outside the classroom, and hopefully I have been making some sort of [positive] difference to the way things have been operating within the faculty.

Of late I have been restless though.

I do miss the classroom, and not just in the fleeting “oh wow, this really sucks I wish I was back there doing that” but more in the “I wish I was doing some of these really cool things myself and not just designing them” but design them I do.

One of the greatest challenges I have had over recent months, has been the frustration of not being able to do it myself.

To know how cool the things are, what the potential of what we are building is, but to not be able to actually get in on the ground and teach is proving to be one of the biggest challenges of my job. I don’t want to lose that particular skill set – and yet, I don’t think that there is the potential for me to do what I want to do in the online space at the moment.

I am having to learn to live vicariously through others. I am having to change my thinking about how I feel about that. I am having to grow a new appreciation for the people who are able to actually do the things I design.

I need to sound less bitter about it all. But perhaps that is a thought for another day.

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Oh let me tell you a tale of woe…

(alternate title “One day my children will think of this as “The Dark Times”)

In December last year I moved house. I went from a very small house in one of the older areas of Canberra… known as “Old Bruce”, to one of the very new ones… Crace. One of the good points (well we thought) was that being one of the brand spanking new areas…we would have NBN. The National Broadband Network has been plagued with issues and has been one of the more politicised infrastructure projects in recent times. Everyone agreed that what we had wasn’t going to last or make the grade for the future, but nobody agreed how the changes should happen. But this is not a blog post about policy or politics (well it could be argued that it is), but for the moment this is all about me and my experiences of trying to get the internet connected.

Because moving house is something I have done once or twice before (read: lots), organising things to be connected and disconnected is something that I don’t find particularity challenging – you call the company, explain what you want and then hey presto… the magic works and you have phone, electricity and all the other things you need to operate in this world.

This time… not so much.

On December 10th 2014 I placed the order to have the NBN connected. The previous tenants had the internet, it would all be fine (I was assured by my would-be internet provider… Optus). It was a simple process requiring two appointments; the first by NBNCo, the second by Optus. Much to my annoyance the first appointment was going to be on January 9th about three weeks after we moved in… preparations were made, offline play organized for the Christmas period… it would be “fun” I assured the Offspring… just like the olden days (insert tales of “when I was your age”).

It wasn’t.

There was no appointment on January 9th. Well there was… I was home, but they didn’t show. Apparently that wasn’t their fault… because there was a need to do some “Network Augmentation” (please note that this phrase has caused a great many giggles… does this mean that my Internet is having a boob job?).

Come February 5th, I called NBNco and asked them what the issue was, I was getting nowhere with Optus, as they couldn’t tell me when I was going to be connected, or what the problem was. NBNCo told me that the people that lived in the house before me had put an NBN order in and that had to be resolved (or cancelled) in order to be able to connect my service. This proved to be wrong.

And then started the NBNCo/Optus blame game.

I will give NBNCo one thing; they kept telling me that Optus was the one that should be following this up… this is completely right. But in all of this, I have had to be my own advocate, so I have called them myself.

Come a week later, both the Optus and NBNCo were telling the same story, that there needed to be “Network Augmentation”, and then a new date was decided on… January 2020.

Now there are some people in this world that no internet until 2020 would be perfectly okay… but this is a house of “Power Users”… so not cool. Both of the Offspring are currently enrolled in online learning (really hard without the internet), my housemate has a photography business (really hard to run without reliable internet), and I am about to start my PhD (again… really hard without the internet).

The new resolution date of 2020 is not acceptable in any way shape or form. Keeping in mind that by virtue of this being an NBN only area, I have no home phone (which generally wouldn’t bother me, but if I had a home phone it would mean that I would also have copper wire and at the very least I could then have ADSL2).

So where are we now?

I have been calling Optus regularly pushing for updates to when they are going to connect. I have been calling NBNCo to see what the progress is on their side.

As of today (20/02/2015), the second date that NBNCo was to have completed the Network Augmentation by has come and gone. I have contacted them and they told me that they hadn’t done the work, but they also told me that there hasn’t been any pushing on my behalf by Optus that this issue be resolved on my behalf.

And here is the really frustrating bit… the people that were in the house before us had the internet connected… on TransACT. One of the good things about the move was getting to chat with the people that lived here before us – we know things about the house, that they had internet was one of the things we know.

But right at this moment I am currently on hold… I don’t think my time is valuable to them, they have already hung up on me once today… even if it was by accident… it isn’t like they don’t have my number.

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*before you say that I should put in a complaint (I have)

**and yes there is the ombudsman, but as part of the complaining to them part you need to provide a complaint number… which Optus have never provided me with (otherwise I would have used it by now).

Managing Change, a ramble

When I started in education – back in the Brendan Nelson years – one of the many things that was drummed into me (along with lesson planning and not smiling before Easter), was how when you went into education, you also went into an environment that would be in a constant state of change. You needed to be adaptable.

It is easy for us to sit back and somewhat cynically say “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, but the reality is that things have changed, and that they will continue to. Look at curriculum. When I started teaching in Queensland it was the year when there was no “official” English curriculum, we used the last one that had been published and assumed that the next one would pick up the following year. We shrugged our collective shoulders and got on with it. Students continued to be taught and they (presumably) continued to learn (please note that this was also pre-NAPLAN). The new curriculum was published, lessons were revised and we moved on. Particularly me, I moved to the ACT, where the Every Chance to Learn was in its draft phase and being rolled out across the system. It was change – and even though there were complaints about “reinventing the wheel” and how this was “just another thing” that someone had thought up to make life difficult, it happened. Education means change.

Students aren’t the same as when I started teaching. One of the things I love (and miss) about the classroom is that there is the chance to learn from them as well, talk to teachers who have been about for a while and they will tell you that this is a change. As we have moved more to a technology based pedagogy, we have started to play in a playground that some teachers are not comfortable in. Indeed, as a part of the standards for teachers there is now a requirement that teachers are present in the digital space within the classroom (see 2.6 Information and Communication Technology), this particular playground is one that the teachers need to be okay with seeking the help of the student in order to operate.  This is a change.

Personal resilience in teaching is something that can be stretched too far. Managing the change in the classroom, both from a curriculum and a student management point of view, can be a challenge and it isn’t for everyone. Leaders of change can only do so much in this journey, individual teachers as a part of a team or community need to take on some of the challenge as well. They need to “own” the change, and of course it is up to the leader to give the individual the chance to play their part, but being a part of the team is a choice that individuals make.

I have watched good teachers leave teaching because they were incapable of managing change outside the classroom. They were inflexible and didn’t want to be a part of the narrative that was being built in a way that it was being offered to them, or they were incapable of building their own narrative that would fit with their expectations of how things should be. They couldn’t see that how we got somewhere didn’t matter, it was that the desired destination was reached that was the important thing.

These lessons learned in middle and high schools have been very important for me in the higher education sector. Working with innovation and change as a part of my everyday sometimes makes me jaded against those who just can’t see the light. Today I have to remember that they may make the journey, just not in the way that I would prefer that they would. I just hope that they get there soon. Because change is inevitable.

Where is my toolbox?

At the moment I am at my desk waiting to take delivery of a toolbox, a specially built one.

It has been much anticipated and planned; it is late (which is a shock for an ICT project) and I already have a page of changes that will need to be made before we can go live. It has been an interesting process, watching the people who know, try and explain to the people who don’t, why things are like they are.

Back a few weeks ago now (seems longer), I was talking to someone about the things we needed to happen in this space, what the innovations are, where they are. People around us are talking about the “groundbreaking” changes that we are making in the delivery of education, how this is a “game changer” for post-graduate studies… and yet… the irony is that I am being held up by the need to have the right kind of log in to the system… in this moment, if I was a student, it would be all good.

The things we learn

Since moving on from the classroom I have been thinking about what happens next. Mostly for me it has been learning things. Largely that it doesn’t matter what level the educational institution, some challenges remain the same.

I have always found it interesting that we look at the educators in terms of those who adopt, those who resist and those who clock – but I think that we have to also realise that there are also those groups (and more) within our student cohorts as well.

Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of seeing some of the changes to teaching and learning that has been happening for the longer term within the faculty – and now I am also having the opportunity to see the student experience of that as well. Which has really been quite interesting.

Things don’t always work exactly as planned, and as I was trying to access a piece of software tonight, to test it before “the things happens”, I did think… that if I was the student, I would have gone and done something else…

Katie Jean has left the building

This week marks the fifth week since I have left the classroom.

In the end it was a rather rushed departure from the schooling system, I still don’t know how long the break is going to be for, or if I am ever going to go back to high schools, but this is a change which I needed to make.

I am still working in education – but in the higher education sector at the university over the hill from me (it is nice to be able to walk to work).

Late last week I was asked why it was that I left, and if I am honest, I don’t think I know yet. I don’t think that it is a permanent shift out of the classroom, but I am also not sure what it is that I have to offer schools just now, I had given so much and was just so tired. So for the moment, I am working in a place I am enjoying, doing things that I love – and not having to deal with the things that were eating away at me.

But I am still trying to keep the students at the centre of it all.

Snippets from the classroom

Walking down the hallway listening in on the lessons underway is a fascinating exercise. Little bits from the different subjects – Industrial Revolution and the slave trade, quadrilateral equations, Vikings – all little parts which make up the whole of a student’s day.

Someone made the comment that it would be fascinating to tweet the snippets to the world… but then like everything in the classroom… context is everything.