To be fair, our digital evolution has been described by many people as almost "too fast"; ironically for us particularly those of us who are part of Aorere Digital, we like to think our progress has been not fast enough! It is only when one has visits such as this one that we have time and indeed a necessity to sit back and think "what have we done?" and in terms of what we have done, "how good have we done?" Over the three and a half hour visit, the highly committed and clearly capable visitors asked a range of questions that we rarely hear or no longer hear at Aorere College. Thankfully we passed this series of impromptu test questions but the point however was made very clear to us, the hosts. One must also take time to stop and reflect and in reality, stop and smell the roses. In being questioned by someone not of our community, a real focus was put on what is valued by another school and as a result maybe what should be valued or be valued more by our school.
The three staff members arrived not only with great questions but also a real freshness and genuine willingness to enquire but at the same time challenge us on our practices, policies and vision. Rather than be offended, it signaled to me and my team that this school is in safe hands now and in even safer hands in the future as they move forth in terms of their digital progression. The fresh perspective reminded me that we often need to keep looking objectively at what we are doing, often from the outside in and with respect to not just our community but also with respect to the wider national and global communities of which we also of. I learnt a great deal from these visitors as they saw things as they are and not what had been before or what we want to come.
One of the visitors during morning tea made a comment that surprised yet pleased me and my team. Over the course of the morning, I had spent a lot of time explaining our network ,devices, teacher and student engagement. It was a real surprise at morning tea when the focus of the conversation was not around any of the above but on how the school had established such a strong culture in terms of our digital elements. This was a really perceptive observation and to be honest, one that my team and I hadn't really put much thought or consideration into. Looking back now and at the culture referred to in the discussion, it is quite clear that whether planned or otherwise, our collegial and collaborative approach to Aorere Digital has in reality fast-tracked not only our evolution but also the breadth of updtake and willingness of our staff to accept and embrace fail-learning. If we didn't have a culture where staff could take risks or try new apps or learning contexts, there is no doubt that staff would default to the conservative, not try at all or in many cases even withdraw or recede.
As we travelled around the various classes and our wonderful students had no difficulty extolling the virtues (or otherwise) and their opinions of everything from the state of the Wi-Fi to required devices to being world-ranked for teen fiction on wattpad, I was starkly reminded of the key reason for all the device introductions, network and filter upgrades, and our compulsory digital citizenship sessions. It wasn't for fame or certainly fortune. It was not even for the students now. I was clearly reminded that everything Aorere has done, is doing and will do, is for the students' now and their futures and their families' and wider communities' future and indeed if I can be a little bit selfish, this writer's future as well. The more we provide for these students now, our adults, leaders and workers of tomorrow, the better for them, me and all of us.
Not bad learning eh, particularly when we were the hosts of the visit this time. Next time we host, you can be sure we'll be ready to not only give as much as we can, but take as many lessons as we can from our visit and indeed our visitors. Right then, who's our next visitors?