Liked https://casco.art/resource/unlearningexercises/ (casco.art)

Unlearning Exercises shares a set of collective “unlearning exercises” to make way for a culture of equality, difference and fairness in art organizations; and aims to inspire active critical investigation of normative structures and practices in order to become aware and get rid of taken-for-granted “truths” and values.

“Doug Belshaw” in Life has no instruction manual – Open Thinkering ()

Bookmarked Accretive Growth Logics by Venkatesh RaoVenkatesh Rao (ribbonfarm.com)

Despite the resemblance, an accretive robot is not the same thing as what in software architecture is known as a [big ball of mud](http://www.laputan.org/mud/). Big balls of mud are the result of organic growth logics going wrong and stalling out due to insufficiently thoughtful organization. Accretive growth is marked by ongoing incorporation of bits and pieces into an improvised, emergent architecture that has a small, conceptually coherent kernel and a large, wild shell. It is the material-embodiment analogue to the AI/big data principle of “simple code and lots of data beats complex code and little data.”

Source: Accretive Growth Logics by @ribbonfarm


Venkatesh Rao unpacks the different between organic and inorganic choatic growth, which he labels as accretive growth. Interestingly, with accretive growth, goals are “very unimportant”:

Goals themselves will evolve as chaotically as the body and mind of an accretively growing entity, and will matter much less. In fact, the more I think about complex, large scale systems, the more I realize “goals” are a very unimportant feature of their behavioral profile. Accretive growth logics prioritize the next round of growth, self-perpetuation, and survival, not long-term goals.

Source: Accretive Growth Logics by @ribbonfarm

This has me thinking about SMART goals and curriculum planning in education, and how these might be done differently by being accretive. I wonder if this is what the adaptive Modern Learning Canvas was trying to achieve.

In the end, Rao captures the biggest challenge of all in my opinion in highlighting that organic growth often wins out as it is easier to implement.

Scaling with accretive growth logics is much harder than scaling with organic growth logics. It takes conscious intelligence and more active steering to do. Very simple creatures can grow organically. It takes human intelligence to invent organ transplants that work. Dumb, unmanaged accretive growth isn’t a thing.

Source: Accretive Growth Logics by @ribbonfarm

Bookmarked Stop Wasting Your Time on School Improvement Plans That Don’t Work. Try This Instead (Opinion) by Peter DeWitt (Education Week)

Some of this seems complicated, right? Problems of practice, theories of action, assumptions, success criteria, and program logic models all seem like a lot of work. However, what is more work is when leaders create a document in isolation that they never intend to use and never engage in conversations with teacher leaders about areas of focus they could work on together.

Peter DeWitt discusses the importance of a theory of action to guide the development of an improvement plan. In addition to a ‘theory of learning’, DeWitt suggests that it is important that plans are also practical.

When working on a school improvement plan, or what some schools may refer to as an academic plan, it’s important for its creators to make sure that it is useful. How do we do that? We do that by:

  • Making sure that we do not have too many priorities;
  • Taking time to reflect on how many actions and activities we should engage in;
  • Including teachers and staff in the discussion and not just creating the document in isolation;
  • Not storing them away only to look at next year when we have to create our next school improvement plan; and
  • Making the document workable and based on our needs.

I wonder about the user of the How Might We question to frame this theory?

After this we returned to our original groups and worked through the ‘How Might We’ task. This involves completing a prompt: how might we ACTION WHAT for WHOM in order to CHANGE SOMETHING. The purpose of this was to come up with a clearer guide for our moonshot.

It also has me thinking about the IOI Process in providing a structure to not only understand the intricacies of context, but help map out a path to change and innovation.

Bookmarked How Are We Preparing For The Futures We See Coming? (DCulberhouse)

“It was such a lost learning experience, because the pandemic itself has been a great opportunity for students to figure out who they are and to question their assumptions about continuity, t…

David Culberhouse discusses the tendency in education to snap back to the comfort of our old default habits in an effort to move on from the pandemic. The problem is that this approach often undermines our ability to engage with the future to support staff and students alike.

As the world changes, often in accelerated and in unanticipated ways, so do our considerations and assumptions, much of which are grounded in the past. Shifting our mental models and maps from the rear-view mirror to the windshield allows us to release thinking we’ve entrenched in a world that no longer exists, so we can begin to creatively confront the uncertain and unknown futures that now await us. And the more sophisticated we can be in that journey, the more open we will be to the emergence of the diversity of futures that lie down the road.

This touches on the call to ‘build back better’. As much as I agree with the point that “one image of the future, may give you security, but it’s a false sense of security”, I worry that security is the least of our problems when some schools struggle to even get teachers to staff their classrooms and simply build back.

Liked Chaos surfing: from surviving to thriving in chaotic times by Anne-Laure Le CunffAnne-Laure Le Cunff (nesslabs.com)

In their book Surfing the Edge of Chaos, Richard Pascale, Mark Milleman, and Linda Gioja explain that there are four cornerstone principles to chaos in nature that we can also observe in chaotic times in our lives and at work:

  • Equilibrium is a precursor to death. “When a living system is in a state of equilibrium, it is less responsive to changes occurring around it,” they write. This state of equilibrium is highly dangerous, putting the system at risk of not adapting quickly enough.
  • Innovation usually takes place on the edge of chaos. It’s when they face a threat or are excited by a new opportunity that living systems tend to come up with new ways of living through experimentation and mutation.
  • Self-organization emerges naturally. As long as a system is sufficiently populated and properly interconnected, a new self-organization will emerge from chaos.
  • Living systems cannot be directed towards a linear path. In dynamical systems, an attractor is defined as a set of states toward which a system tends to evolve. The direction is discovered rather than dictated by the living living system.

These principles are crucial to keep in mind when surfing the edge of chaos.

Bookmarked Tech Fear-Mongering Isn’t New—But It’s Time to Break the Cycle by Lauren MurrowLauren Murrow (future.com)

Amy Orben wanted to answer a very modern question: How do digital connections compare with other forms of connection?  It’s the kind of thing only a wonky, hyperanalytic person would think to ask. Orben is that person. She received a master’s in natural science from the University of Cambridge, and then went to the University… Read More

In an excerpt from Build for Tomorrow, Jason Feifer provides insight into Amy Orben’s four-step Sisyphean cycle of technology panics. This is cycle that has been repeated again and again over time.

  1. Something seems different
  2. Politicians get involved
  3. Scientists slam the gas
  4. The low-information free-for-all

Feifer explains that the way to break out of this cycle is to start collecting evidence prior to being aware.

It’s time to keep a record. The next time you surprise yourself by loving something you thought you’d hate, write it down. Memorialize it in a notebook, or on a Word doc, or just an email to yourself. It doesn’t matter. Describe why you didn’t want to do this thing, and then what happened after you did it, and how you feel now. Then store that piece of writing somewhere that you can easily find — because one day, I guarantee, the boulder you just rolled up a hill will roll back down, and you’ll be at the bottom, feeling lazy and defeated, and you will not want to push it back up. That’s when you need the reminder that you’ve been there before — but that there are great things on the other side of these feelings. All you need to do is say yes.

The question I am left wondering what the difference is between being critical compared to the act of panicking? Is concern over something like Facebook panic or is it something different?

“wiobyrne” in Sisyphean Cycles – Digitally Literate ()

Bookmarked Ark Head by Venkatesh RaoVenkatesh Rao (ribbonfarm.com)

One mental model for this condition is what I call ark head, as in Noah’s Ark. We’ve given up on the prospect of actually solving or managing most of the snowballing global problems and crises we’re hurtling towards. Or even meaningfully comprehending the gestalt. We’ve accepted that some large fraction of those problems will go unsolved and unmanaged, and result in a drastic but unevenly distributed reduction in quality of life for most of humanity over the next few decades. We’ve concluded that the rational response is to restrict our concerns to a small subset of local reality–an ark–and compete for a shrinking set of resources with others doing the same. We’re content to find and inhabit just one zone of positivity, large enough for ourselves and some friends. We cross our fingers and hope our little ark is outside the fallout radius of the next unmanaged crisis, whether it is a nuclear attack, aliens landing, a big hurricane, or (here in California), a big wildfire or earthquake.

In order to survived the battered psyche, Venkatesh Rao explains that way have resorted to the ‘ark head’ mental model. This involves giving up on solving the world’s ills and simply hiding in our ark.

Ark-head is an interesting collective diagnosis. It’s not depression, anxiety PTSD, or collective brain fog, though all those currently common comorbidities tighten the grip of ark-head on the psyche. It’s an unconsciously adopted survivalist mindset that draws boundaries around itself as tightly as necessary to maintain the ability to function. It’s a pragmatic abandonment of universalist conceits to save your sanity.

He suggests that it is very much the mental model for the Dark Ages. The way out is through telling stories beyond the ark.

It was interesting reading this alongside Ed Yong’s discussion of the ongoing pandemic:

The U.S. will continue to struggle against infectious diseases in part because some of its most deeply held values are antithetical to the task of besting a virus. Since its founding, the country has prized a strain of rugged individualism that prioritizes individual freedom and valorizes self-reliance. According to this ethos, people are responsible for their own well-being, physical and moral strength are equated, social vulnerability results from personal weakness rather than policy failure, and handouts or advice from the government are unwelcome. Such ideals are disastrous when handling a pandemic

Replied to Farewell to designing and establishing a ‘new normal’. by gregmiller68 (gregmiller68.com)

What a privilege it has been to be the Foundation Principal of St Luke’s! I have appreciated playing a small part in a big team. I will be forever thankful for the staff who trusted me and I leave being in awe of their work.

Congratulations Greg. I have really enjoyed following your journey. Thank you for openly sharing. Good luck with whatever the future has to bring.
Bookmarked Unbeaching the whale by AdministratorAdministrator (insidestory.org.au)

There is no shortage of things that could be added to this list. The revolution’s questionable taken-for-granteds (“equality of opportunity,” “choice,” schooling’s economic contribution) badly need re-examining. So does the habit of looking for silver bullets in other countries rather than trying to understand how Australia’s system has developed and what it can and can’t become. So also the endless talk about what makes a good teacher or a good school to the exclusion of what makes a good system.

But the point is not in a to-do list. The point is that the revolution has failed and so has its way of thinking. The first step towards unbeaching the whale is to start thinking outside that suffocating box.

Dean Ashenden reflects on the failure of Gonski and the education revolution. He suggests that the biggest ‘success’ was the way of talking about education which focuses on outcomes:

The revolution’s one real success was in directing the attention and shaping the language of “policymakers” and “thought leaders.” They now have no other way of thinking and talking about schooling. Hence ministers declaring that yet another bad PISA result to be yet another “wake-up call,” hence more announcements about lifting teachers’ pay or entry scores, hence new tests to make sure that teachers can spell, and hence more looking at other countries to see what they are doing right that might work here — all less from conviction than from not knowing what else to do. Seen from the outside it comes close to a famous definition of insanity.

As a model, the notion of outcomes comes from health services. Ashenden posits that this is problematic as those doing the ‘working’ are in fact the students, not the teachers.

The most fundamental mistake lies in imagining that schools are essentially deliverers of the service of teaching in much the same way that hospitals and clinics deliver health services. In reality, schools aren’t like that at all.

Schools are sites of the production of learning, not by teachers but by a four million–strong workforce otherwise known as students. The big determinant of their productivity is not the quality of supervision but the organisation of their work.

As much as I agree with what Ashenden is saying, my fear is that we are all always already ‘inside the box’? I also worry about the metaphor of the ‘beached whale’ as some whales cannot be unbeached and are blown up, or simply left to decay, providing food for opportunistic seagulls and sharks.

Replied to Considering The “Default” Future (dculberh.wordpress.com)

It is only when we are willing to disrupt and discover beyond the “default” that new futures are able to be considered and imagined.

As always David you leave me thinking more deeply about the current situation. There was so much spoken about ‘building back better‘, yet it feels like so much of schooling has bounced back to pre-COVID defaults. The problem I have experienced is that things have changed and trying to work the same plan as if it is all business as usual seems somewhat flawed.

For me, this has particularly been captured in the way we assess and report. So many have reverted back to biannual reporting how it was three years ago with little recognition of the disruptions that are still occurring and little thought to whether it is actually what is required by all parties involved. Although I have noticed some discussion of other models, such as mastery, as you attest in your piece, unless you recognise your current default it is hard to break free. This is what I have always liked about the Modern Learning Canvas as a means of starting this conversation.

Replied to All the world is an improv stage (daily-ink.davidtruss.com)

The world is your stage. The play is your playground. Improvise your roles as best as you can. And remember that others are improvising theirs roles too. Work with your fellow actors to create the best performance you can. But remember it’s all an act, and if you aren’t playing a role that works, change the role or change the way you act in it. All the world is an improv stage, and so you get to write the script as you go. Enjoy the performance, you only get one.

Dave, your discussion about acting and the unknown reminded me of a series of posts written by Tom Critchlow exploring Keith Johnstone’s book Improvisation and the Theatre and the analogies between the improv actor and the consultant.

Liked A Parable And Systems Awareness (DCulberhouse)

The parable of Chesterton’s Fence reminds us that deepening our understandings of the past allows us to better engage change for the future, thereby allowing for better decisions to be made in the present.

“Whenever you remove any fence always pause long enough to ask why it was put there in the first place.” -G.K. Chesterton

Replied to Why schools avoid complexity and why they shouldn’t (EDUWELLS)

Schools need to follow the practical examples outlined in this book (including elementary classrooms) and embrace complexity with a comfort that you can’t be wrong because no answer is absolutely right. We need the next generation to understand themselves, their role, their community, and how the elements and actors within complex systems relate to and impact each other.

To avoid another generation leaving school with no understanding of how the world really operates and full of anxiety about the speed of change and unpredictable events, every teacher needs to introduce and refer more often to anything’s “bigger picture” and enjoy it’s complexity.

Teaching for Complex Systems Thinking sounds like an important read Richard. It reminds me of a series of posts by Dave Cormier on complexity verses complicated in education.
Bookmarked Is De-Implementation the Best Way to Build Back Better? (PETER DEWITT, ED.D)

We can no longer pile more and more on the plates of educators and need to take a seriously look, and then engage in actionable steps, to de-implement those initiatives that no longer work and waste our time.

Peter DeWitt reflects on the impact of the current crisis on education. He explains that it has put more stress on the well-being of teachers as well as students. Therefore, to build back better, we need to ‘de-implement’:


De-implementation is a graduated continuum of individual, team, and organizational change that require different strategies in terms of learning and unlearning. Learning refers to the process of acquiring new skills or knowledge. Unlearning is a process of discarding outdated mental models to make room for alternative models.

This reminds me of Tom Barrett’s discussion of innovation compression.

How might we fully appreciate the resources needed to introduce these new ideas and what they overlap with? How can we create space for people to make the most of this idea and for it to have the impact we want? Which programmes or existing innovations might be discarded to release energy and resources?

I wonder if in not taking something off the plate, we instead risk a shock to the system that will require so much more effort to turnaround.

Bookmarked Scrum Project Management | Inquiry Hub for Educators (educators.inquiryhub.org)

Scrum is one of several forms of agile project management. One of the key designers of Scrum is Jeff Sutherland. There are many online videos describing the process, roles, and terminology. Here is one video summarizing the book and outlining the process:

A breakdown the scrum process as outlined in The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

“Dᴀᴠɪᴅ Tʀᴜss @datruss” in Dᴀᴠɪᴅ Tʀᴜss ∞β on Twitter: “Resources for the presentation shared here: https://t.co/JrZfxsUjpO” / Twitter ()

Replied to From Complicated To Complex (DCulberhouse)

In many ways we exist at a crossroads, where something must eventually give…

A junction where the complicated and complex have come face to face, a crossroads where they come head to head in a world that is in the midst of its own massive upheaval that is spilling out in broad swaths of uncertainty that are spilling out across our societal, organizational, and institutional ecosystems. Understanding this dynamic will be vital for the future of leadership and building more effective systems across our organizations and institutions. As well as realizing how our organizations and institutions have truly become complex adaptive systems, and what has worked before, what has worked effectively in the past, may very well will not work in the future.

David, this reminds me of Dave Cormier’s discussion of our tendency towards complicated even though we think we are talking about the complex. It was interesting to read this alongside Scott McLeod’s push back on the call to reform:

“… reflection on organizational possibilities and institutional futures is common during the ‘reconstruction’ phase (Boin & Hart, 2003) of a crisis (see also Coombs, 2000; Heath, 2004; Boin, Hart, Stern, & Sundelius, 2005; Jaques, 2009; Smith & Riley, 2012). Time will tell if these ‘silver linings’ actually occur. Although many scholars have noted the revolutionary potential of major crises (see, e.g., Prewitt, Weil, and McClure, 2011; Harris, 2020), Boin and Hart (2003) stated that there are inherent tensions between crisis management and reform-oriented leadership. During a crisis, leaders often try to ‘minimize the damage, alleviate the pain, and restore order” (p. 549), which conflicts with attempts to disrupt the organization and move it in a new direction.” [emphasis added]
from McLeod, S., & Dulsky, S. (2021; under review). Resilience, reorientation, and reinvention: School leadership during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In regards to McLeod’s concerns, I wonder if the call for systemic change overlooks the continual changes that we grapple with all the time?

Liked Against Nostalgia by zeynep (Insight)

Until we call out the ridiculousness when it appears, until we recognize exactly how broken things are we may be falling into the trap of longing for nostalgia. For a past we can return to where the problems we have didn’t exist. Or, we can recognize that nostalgia is fed from exactly the dynamic that got us to this thorny moment in the first place: the denial of our broken social contract, and institutions and rituals that were performatively there, the way the debate was, but no longer providing the function that was the stated reason for their existence in the first place.