The RM Strategic Forum
In the early 80s I was in an amateur dramatics society, in which I trod the boards (as we say in show biz) a few times a year. In the late 80s I was in a band, in which I played blues harp (as we bluesmen call the harmonica) and sang.
Yet despite such displays of derring-do, when David and Carrie Grant announced that we would all be singing, I experienced a range of emotions, starting and ending with "OMG!". I had awful visions of being one of a hapless few selected to sing solo, and all the negative, stiff upper lip, we-didn't-do-this-in-my-day, what's-this-got-to-do-with-ICT-strategic-planning-anyway type of thoughts came flooding in.
Well needless to say, it was a great way of starting a day that was intended to be one in which we opened our minds to other possibilities and started to think differently. There were lessons to be learnt:
- In the hands of a good teacher, you can achieve great things very quickly. David and Carrie were excellent.
- Furthermore, a great teacher will make you believe yourself that you can achieve great things very quickly.
Great things? Well, I think a crowd of a couple of hundred people singing in four-part harmony within half an hour or so has to count as a 'great thing'.
- Finally, it was a salutary reminder of the hell we put some children through every lesson of every day. I remember myself spending every lesson in some subjects being terrified that the teacher was going to pick on me to answer a question. We can do things differently now.
The activity was also a great way of loosening up and generating some energy.
With input from assorted luminaries, including Richard Gerver, Sir Ken Robinson, Ollie Bray, John Davitt and Sir Tim Brighouse, the talks and panel discussion were very good, and in some parts quite moving.
In the panel discussion David Grant did an excellent job of coming back at the panelists and saying "Yes, but what can we actually do right now or tomorrow?". Left to themselves, a lot of visionaries tend to lapse into a default position of, er, having visions . It's good to have someone nagging them to say something of practical value too! (And yes, I know I'm being slightly unfair, but you get the point I'm making, yes?)
It was slightly annoying that a couple of the panelists had somehow gained access to my brain and filched some of my ideas about what makes an expert teacher. I've been writing an article about that, in my head. For example, an expert teacher is not just someone who knows their stuff, but can get the students engaged. Although even there I have to say — but I'm getting ahead of myself: you'll have to wait for the article to make its way from my head to these pages.
The small group discussion was OK, and well-facilitated, but the acoustics were such that it was difficult to hear everyone. The walk around the learning spaces set up, which included lots of examples of some great technology, and in some cases some real live students using it, was excellent. I was impressed by how knowledgeable the staff were. Also, as happens every time I see anything like this, I wished I'd had this kind of kit when I was teaching.
One thing that RM has done is to address head-on the problem always faced in new builds, which is that the architects wade in and the educational technology is incorporated into discussions as an after-thought — by which time it is too late. RM has teamed up with firms of architects so that their contribution is part of an overall educational approach.
Receiving an iPod Touch was great, but having it ready-loaded with useful files, and having to use it in the first session with the Grants, was a very well-thought out move.
If you have a chance to go to one of these events I would say do so: it's time and money well-spent. And no, I'm not being paid by RM to say this, in case you're wondering why I'm enthusing so much about this conference.
This article was originally published as part of a news bulletin on 28th April 2010.