Liked If only politicians focused on the school issues that matter. This election is a chance to get them to do that (The Conversation)

At a symposium in June 2020, Keith Heggart and Steven Kolber asked teachers, principals, politicians, journalists, education researchers, parents, public intellectuals and community members to discuss democratic issues faced by Australian schools. The two authors have compiled a soon-to-be-published edited collection based on the symposium. They summarise key issues as:

  • teachers’ rapidly increasing workload
  • lack of trust in teachers and their professional judgment
  • lack of scrutiny of the expensive adoption of new technology
  • the quality of research used for so-called evidence-based policy.

Suggested approaches for tackling these issues include:

  • more effective and personalised professional learning for teachers
  • more parental and community involvement in schools
  • more targeted support for early-career teachers by linking them to professional networks and teaching communities
  • a revitalisation of teacher unions, including a return to grassroots work with members, but also through expanding connections with the broader education community, including parents, professional associations and think tanks.

Underpinning all of these issues was a central theme: teachers must have the flexibility, trust and quality of research essential for education that serves local needs.

Replied to Will We Need To Rethink Better? (DCulberhouse)

“Building back better” is comparable to remodeling an old house (reform), whereas, “Building back different” is comparable to deconstructing that house in order to construct a whole new building (transform). Which is a whole different level of thinking, requiring new models and maps.

David Culberhouse pushes back on the call to build back ‘better’ and argues that instead we need to focus on building back differently.

If we are going to be able to move from reforming to transforming, to move from “Building back better” to “Building back different,” we will have to become much more aware. Aware of how much of what we consider for the future, of the ideas that are informing that future, are often projections pushed forward from the models and maps that have been constructed from both the past and the present.

His issue is that a focus on better often limits us to models and maps that have been constructed over time, whereas the focus should be on strategic thinking that is focused on the future.

This has me wondering about the place of history within all of this and the importance of not repeating the same mistakes twice.

Bookmarked Change in Education and What Needs to be Done (

What we want is often expressed in terms that describe an elite education, which includes in-person residence, small classes featuring personal instruction, and the formation of communities and networks. Elite education, however, can and will be changed into a more hybrid offering that offers the best possible version of these affordances to the wider community. Learning technology supporting these is in the process of being developed, and this technology defines how we can change much of traditional education to make it more equitable and more sustainable over a lifetime.

Expect learning to be much more integrated into the community, with people learning at home or in the workplace and coming together into classrooms only for activities and events. Expect cohorts to be formed and managed by artificial intelligence and to include people from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and workplaces. Expect pedagogies to transition for a model based on instruction to one based on learning environment design with tools and practices supporting self-managed learning. Expect credentials to continue to shift away from diplomas and degrees to much more fine-grained forms of assessment based on actual experience and practice. And finally, expect increasing decentralization of conferencing and communication.

Stephen Downes addresses what is currently unsustainable in education and what is subsequently needed in regards to change. He provides the following suggestions:

  • Focus on building adaptive capacity, rather than single solutions
  • Develop learning environments which connect with the community
  • Provide diverse learning opportunities
  • Support self-managed learning
  • Prepare for trusted social federated identity systems and personal learning dashboards

I would argue that a lot of Downes work is focused on higher-ed, it therefore makes me wonder what some of this might look look in primary years? Also, his discussion about equity, rather than elite, has me wondering about initiatives such as Bridge International and the outsourcing of education? It is a useful provocation none the less.

Liked Rethinking the Story of Schools (maelstrom)

Our understanding and definition of the purpose of education will undergo inevitable change in order to reflect the transformational times we live in. No single approach will be good enough to meet the needs of our learners and no single approach should dictate those needs. Our conception of success will need to be better understood and defined beyond school in the light of a clearer recognition of humanity’s predicament. There are no losers in this equation, no feared compromise of academic rigor. What could be more rigorous than insisting that learning has a purpose that goes beyond college admissions? Success is no longer about individual competition or linear thinking about qualifications. It is about what is vital for our planet, our communities, our relationships, and ourselves to thrive. These are inextricably connected ideas and a renewed narrative about how our schools are dedicated to this inspiring conception of success can and will guide the future of education and society.

Bookmarked Not Taking Bad Advice: a Pedagogical Model by Jesse StommelJesse Stommel (

Best practices, which aim to standardize teaching and flatten the differences between students, are anathema to pedagogy.

In Jesse Stommel’s flipped keynote at Digital Pedagogy Lab 2020, he pushes back on the tendency to rely on various pre-existing pedagogical models.

In higher education, too many of us cling to other people’s models, because we have rarely been taught, encouraged, or given the support we need to create our own.

What matters most are the conversations as much as the product.a

 Models like Bloom’s are a distraction from the hard conversations we should be having about teaching and learning, and I don’t think that’s an accident.

This is what I like about the Modern Learning Canvas and the way in which it helps frames the conversation.

Listened Innovation in Learning Design from Happy Steve

I recently had the pleasure of being invited onto the Atomi Brainwaves podcast on the topic of Innovation in Learning Design.

The timing is excellent because after 4 years of working with commercial organisations, I’m delighted to be bringing some of my focus back to schools and learning. The episode was recorded about 6 days into the COVID lockdown.

Steve Collis spoke on the Atomi Brainwaves podcast about her journey in regards to learning and innovation. Reflecting on his experiences, Collis talks about the importance of creating the culture of change at the top. For him, this came through messages, such as ‘do then think’ and ‘ready fire aim’. This was about doing small changes which could then be incorporated into the daily practice along the way. This is in contrast to spending months preparing change for the following year. (An example of such learning experiences was the decision one year to have the first two days to be without teachers.)

For Collis, the big challenge he faced was reimagining the human journey. A key to this was breaking the traditional approaches to education and differentiation – what John Goh calls our ‘default’ – where each lesson involves three different groups/levels that often succeed as teachers work so hard to make it work. The problem with this is that it treats learning as a linear process that runs to strict time and place.

To help make better sense of this change, Collis spoke about the Touchline Model to capture the current state of play and how we might change it. This involves unpacking three structures: physical structure, information structure and our shared social structure. Here is a summary from the Amicus website:

When working with Amicus’s People and Culture consultants the first thing that is achieved is a direction-setting module which covers our report and design-briefing document, we take into consideration all three touchlines in an integrated fashion. This means in practice that we unpack your aspirations for the move into practical implications for not just the physical space, but also the information space (e.g. your technology toolkit) and organisation space (e.g. routines, meetings, spatial protocols). The goal for any new workspace should be a capitalisation on what you can truly achieve. The office lease or motivation to move only rolls around every 5 years or so, so ensure your organisation makes the most of it.

He also talks about the model in his presentation at DEX 2019 conference.

Another important ingredient to change is the design for emergence. This is where teachers design deliberate constaints. Often the argument is made against ‘direct instruction’ and specific information, however the issue is not the instruction, but the fact that such instruction is not at the point of need. Collis spoke about the use of flipped instruction and providing students more choice and autonomy as to when they accessed this information. Therefore, such shared learning narratives often involved a number of choices or spaces. This often included a help desk which was run by both teachers and peers. Where such spaces differ to the open planned movements of the past is the place of technology to make such learning more doable. This includes both Google Docs and writable surfaces. With all of this, the question is always about finding the right balance. He discusses this further in his TED Talk.

Associated with leadership, Collis touched on the fact that it is easier to drive change when there is nothing to lose. For example, this is at the heart of Templestowe College’s success. It is also interesting to think about this in regards to Simon Breakspeare’s work with Agile Schools. However, Collis also touched on the risk of trauma about changing too much too fast. For me, the danger of coming up too fast is that we risk getting the bends. In this respect I guess leadership is also knowing when to pull the break. See for example Richard Wells decision to press pause on the move to reimagine learning in the school he is in.

Liked If We Need To Be Right Before We Move (maelstrom)

Our vulnerability as a society has been exposed. The inclination to place each aspect of the learning process into the neat compartments of an age-old system can’t simply be returned to without a significant re-think. We have to view our current circumstance as an opportunity to reconsider where we have been with a greater capacity for agility, imagination, and resilience going forward. This may not be a one-off disruption. A new value proposition will emerge. It is clear that we need to take better care of the planet, ourselves, and each other. This requires change. The possibility that we might fail to reflect on these needs seems unimaginable right now. Let’s hope we do not lose this opportunity to complacency or fear.

Liked Tofu is not Cheese: Reimagine Education without Schools During Covid19 (1) (Education in the Age of Globalization)

This is a great opportunity to help children enter the virtual world with competence and wisdom. When schools are forced to offer education online, students must use technology. They are forced to learn in the virtual world all the time. To help them become productive learners and responsible citizens in the virtual world, schools should intentionally consider how to make good use of this opportunity to teach digital competence.

Replied to Transforming Exponentially (

Let’s commit to working together, sharing openly, and transforming our practice exponentially.

David, I really liked your closing remarks about moving ‘slow and thoughtful’ in this time of change.

Collaboration will be key. This is not a time to try things on isolation, it is a time to work together. For now changes have been forced upon us. These changes can lead us to rush and just do small incremental changes in individual practice. Or we can be slow and thoughtful and ensure that these changes lead to a collective, exponential transformation in the way we look at content, skills and competencies, as well as our assessment and evaluation practices.

There is a lot written about the move online, such as Dean Shareski’s This is the Time. Although this time provides us an opportunity, I think that if we rush too fast that we will get the bends. I will continue to come back to Dave Cormier’s pre-pandemic piece on sustainable change. Working together we need to use the opportunity to bring everyone along with the journey.

Bookmarked This Is The Time – Ideas and Thoughts (

School systems are looking for ways to replicate the simplest and most basic level of education that is centred around sheer content delivery. I don’t intend to chastise anyone for this approach, but it reflects a rather a limited view of both technology and education; it’s a futile attempt to uphold pre-existing structures of teaching and learning. Online learning, while in existence for decades, is a brand new practice for the majority of classroom teachers. I would venture to guess that far fewer than half of all teachers have dabbled in creating any kind of online or even blended learning environment. There are many unique affordances with learning online but indeed we will recognize the downsides.

Dean Shareski suggests that with the current crisis providing an opportunity to change how we do school, it is time to:

  • Explore the advantages and disadvantages of learning online
  • Understand the power of technology
  • Foster community
  • Explore joyful learning
  • Begin to address issues of equity.
  • Give up control and embrace personal learning
  • Rethink assessment
  • Extend Grace
  • Prioritise well-being above all else

This is a similar sentiment put forward by Gary Stager:

So, there is reason to celebrate (briefly), but then you must act! Use this time to remake schooling in a way that’s more humane, creative, meaningful, and learner-centered. This is your moment!

In the absence of compelling models of what’s possible, the forces of darkness will fill the void. Each of us needs to create models of possibility.

Whatever model is proposed, Mal Lee suggests that we need to assume that students will attend a physical space at regular times.

Work on the reality that society will expect the kids to go school, and return home at a set time each day, five days a week, for X days of the year, and break for holidays in the same weeks each year.

Bookmarked Corona Virus, Schools and the Window of Opportunity | The Digital Evolution of Schooling (

Work on the reality that society will expect the kids to go school, and return home at a set time each day, five days a week, for X days of the year, and break for holidays in the same weeks each year.

And just maybe some of the opportunities opened by the pandemic will be realised.

Mal Lee discusses the reality that has come apparent through the current crisis, that parents and society expect students to go to school.

What is now patently obvious from the pandemic experience is that physical attendance at a physical place school must be core to schooling forever.

Change therefore needs to be within this contraint.

Liked The Parent Opportunity – Will Richardson (Will Richardson)

Now is the time to get meta with parents, students, and teachers about learning. And we can do it in the service of learning about learning. Whether through survey or live Zoom discussions or email or whatever else, right now is when we need to be asking these questions and engaging in these conversations:

  • When is your child most engaged with their online school experience? Why? What drives that engagement?
  • When is your child bored or disengaged? Why?
  • When do your children feel joy in learning? What circumstances lead to that?
  • What are you learning about your children during this experience? How does that learning happen?
  • How are your children’s learning skills improving during this time? What’s changing about them as learners?

I’m sure there are others, and we can vary them for the audience, but you get the idea. We can collect and share these answers at the appropriate time as a way of sparking a larger conversation about what learning really is, what aspects of school really aren’t working, and how we can bring more joy and love of learning to “real” school moving forward. And it would be a spark built on our personal, collective experience as qualitative researchers asking relevant, important questions about our kids.

Bookmarked ‘We Did Vocabulary Last Year’ (The Confident Teacher)

I often pose these following questions when I do vocabulary training as a starter for potential ‘leading indictors’ of changing practice in the classroom:

  • Are there more detailed and ‘academic’ pupil explanations?
  • Is there more extended dialogue?
  • Are there more questions about vocabulary?
  • Are there more examples of ‘word consciousness’?
  • Are there more vocabulary edits in pupils’ books?
  • Is the written expression in pupils’ books more sophisticated?
  • Are there more teacher questions about vocabulary knowledge?
  • Is there a ‘word rich’ climate in the classroom?
Alex Quigley discusses the process of educational change and challenging of improving overall practice, rather than proving another practice in isolation.
Bookmarked School as Fiction – Will Richardson (Will Richardson)

Acknowledging that schools are in reality a “fiction” or a social construct is the first step in creating a more just and effective experience for students.

Will Richardson has returned to blogging with a vengeance. In this post he builds on Yuval Noah Harari’s notion of ‘money as fiction‘ to argue that maybe school is a fiction.

The idea of schools as “fictions” is bracing at first. But if you flip the idea over a few times, less so. The narrative of schooling runs deep, but it is simply that: a narrative.

According to RIchardson, this fiction covers up “our greatest unpleasant truth that schools are not really built for learning.”

He then turns to a paper by David Labaree exploring the competing purposes of education in the United States:

Labaree’s thesis is this: we may say that we want great schools because they are a public good, because (as I said above) they serve the purpose of preparing children to live in a democracy and to hopefully improve society. But what we truly value in schools in the private good they offer in terms of promoting privilege and the current meritocracy, and in the assumed role of providing access to “a better life.”

We choose to build our narrative of schooling around the “private good” of schools and education in order to maintain access to social standing and individual opportunity, rather than as a “public good” which emphasizes citizenship and civic mindedness at its core.

In response to all this, Richardson argues that we need to reclaim the narrative around education.

It is interesting to compare Richardson’s discussions about purpose and learning with Gert Biesta’s exploration of what makes a good education, especially in regards to learnification.

Bookmarked REVIEW OF THE MELBOURNE DECLARATION – Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration (Educational Council)

Education Ministers have agreed a new national declaration on education goals for all Australians. Known as the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration (the Declaration), it sets out the national vision for education and the commitment of Australian Governments to improving educational outcomes.

Mparntwe (pronounced M-ban tua) is the Arrernte name for Alice Springs. The Aboriginal Arrernte (pronounced arrunda) people are the traditional custodians of Alice Springs and the surrounding region.

The Australian Government has released a review of the Melbourne Declaration, published over ten years ago, it is titled Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration. It includes two goals: to promote excellence and equity, as well as supporting students to become confident, creative, life-long learners within the community. There are a number of commitments that have been agreed upon to support these goals, such as developing stronger partnerships, building foundational skills, providing more pathways and strengthening the responsibility mechanisms for students at risk. The document itself can be found here.

It will be interesting to see how this is interpreted and integrated, especially with the current push for a ‘back to basics‘ curriculum. It is also interesting to read some of these ideas alongside the arguments against American system. (Listen for example The Daily’s episode on America’s Education Problem.)

Replied to 2020 – The Year of the Radical Instructional Designer – Etale – Exploring Futures & Innovations in Education with Bernard Bull (

Even so, it is still too limiting for me and it is why I identify as a designer more than an instructional designer. There is just too much philosophical and ideological baggage associated with the phrase, even with the word “instructional.” I will hesitantly reference instructional design, but I much prefer to think more broadly. In that sense, I offer an alternative definition for the radical instructional designer as ”a person who builds upon deep beliefs and values while contributing to the creation of learning experiences, environments, solutions, possibilities, frameworks, models, tools, and systems.

I like your point about values Bernard. Too often what we value is left silent to what we expect to happen. This is what I liked about the Modern Learning Canvas. By giving a place for ‘pedagogical beliefs’ next to ‘outcomes’, the canvas helps to place everything in perspective.
Replied to What if These 50+ Activities Made Up 90% of Every School Day? – Etale – Exploring Futures & Innovations in Education with Bernard Bull (

I envision learning environments where one or more of the following 50+ items make up the bulk of every school day. I see schools where learning is rich, inspiring, meaningful, and transformational; and where the dragons of tests and grades no longer demand fear and submission. I envision a learning environment that is deeply human and humane, one that is responsive to the needs, callings, passions, proclivities, perspectives, and voices of all learners.

With such an extensive list Bernard, I wonder if there is a corresponding list of items that should not be taking up 90% of our time?
Liked Steve Jobs, Success and P2P @stluke’s by gregmiller68 (

About 2 weeks ago, like all schools, St Luke’s staff were right in the middle of reports, maintaining high standards for the remainder of the 2019 school year and, with ongoing employment of 30 staff for next year, even looking ahead to 2020.
At the same time, I read an article penned by Steve Jobs, after which, I shared an email with staff. It appears below.

Replied to Innovation in schools (the édu flâneuse)

For me, innovation in education is about interrogating where voice, power and agency reside. It is worth asking: who has power and influence? Who has control of measures, expectations, systems, norms and processes? Who has autonomy, voice and ownership? And what can we each do, now, that is productive and meaningful for our students?

Deborah, I really like your discussion of innovation and ecosystems:

An ecosystem is a complex community of interconnected organisms in which each part, no matter how seemingly small, has an active, agentic part to play in the community. There are constant interdependent relationships and influences. The notion of an ecosystem of education resonates with Bob Garmston and Bruce Wellman’s third Adaptive Schools underlying principle of what they call ‘nonlinear dynamical’ systems: that tiny events create major disturbances. This principle reflects the way change often happens. The little things we change or do can have unexpected, chaotic, incremental effects that are difficult to quantify or not immediately noticeable.

Working as one of those ‘little things’ that come into the school it can be easy to bring in a script when arriving at a new school. The problem is that each school is made up of many other ‘little things’. I have therefore found it more useful to gauge as much about the school’s context as quickly as possible and then re-framing my message to fit.

Tom Critchlow describes this as ‘client ethnographies‘:

Every time you’re on-site with a client’s organization you’re studying the people, the behaviours, the motivations. You’re asking questions of as many people as you can.

While Doug Belshaw talks about the dangers of dead metaphors and failed frameworks:

So although it takes time, effort, and resources, you’ve got to put in the hard yards to see an innovation through all three of those stages outlined by Jisc. Although the temptation is to nail things down initially, the opposite is actually the best way forward. Take people on a journey and get them to invest in what’s at stake. Embrace the ambiguity.

Although it can be a challenge to find the time and resources, without it change is often frustrating to say the least.