Another first day of school

One of the things I love about the school year beginning each year is the opportunity we have as teachers to start fresh, set goals and the enthusiastic nature a new year brings in. The first morning as we meet back as a staff after a well deserved break is always full of enthusiasm and excitement. Sadly, I have been part of many first days where that excitement is withered away with endless descriptions of protocols, overviews and inductions. Usually presented with a dry PowerPoints and limitless pieces of paper reminding us all what we should be doing.

This year’s start to the school year for me started at the Melbourne Museum, with who we have developed a wonderful partnership over that last year with ongoing projects. The aim of the day was to provoke our thinking about how we provoke children’s learning. A meta provocation if you will.

As a Reggio Emilia inspired school we use provocations to provide meaningful and emotional connections to learning. Leaving the OHS induction for another staff meeting, we were able to hear from two amazing speakers who shared their designs for the Children’s Museum at Melbourne Museum and reflect on how we might design purposeful provocations for our children.

First we heard from Mary Featherston, who was was in the original design team for the Children’s Museum in the 80s. She spoke about recognising that although museums in the 80’s had established themselves as treasure houses for the community there was nothing for children. They understood the importance of talking to and listening to children in the development of the museum and observing how children made direct connections with the artefacts and their experiences. They were able to identify that children learn through their senses, vigourously. They learnt that hands on exhibits that were deemed boring by the children were often vandalised and that they needed to find a way to slow children down and allow them to dig deeper in the artefacts. Quickly our teaching team was beginning to compare and contrast learning experiences in schools and museums.

As the Children’s Museum is now going through a redesign we were lucky enough to hear from the most recent design team about how they have tried to create a “wondrous museum place for children.” They see children as co-creators of the museum and have worked with a variety of audiences to develop a balance between the familiar and unfamiliar and high and low pace experiences.

The staff interacting in one of the exhibits

We had time to walk through the current Children’s Museum asking ourselves the questions; What is the essence of a provocation? How is a provocation more than just an object? How do we find rich ways to engage in the world with our objects?

Now back at school and a week in, we are still thinking and reflecting on the experiences of our first day. When the museum staff spoke about the design of a welcome space to draw children in. A space to let the child know that the authority of their learning and experiences had now been handed over to them, has certainly inspired us to think about how we welcome children to our learning neighbourhood. How does a child know that when they enter the school or our spaces that we respect them and recognise their desires for learning? How do we show them that this is a place that is not separate from but connected to their home and community?

Already in the first week we have begun to unpack the children’s understanding of welcome and how we make people feel safe and cared for and in the coming weeks we will use provocations to think about how we might transform our welcome foyer into a space that hands over the authority to children.

Much better than walking away from the first day with a checklist of frameworks and protocols……

A day at the museum

I have always believed in the power of the network in education to provoke, support and connect. As a user of twitter I have built up a large network around me and now people I have connected with through that have become close colleagues who I talk to regularly about my practice. This year one of those connections I met on twitter using the #vicpln hashtag a few years back provided me with an opportunity to work closely with our local museums.

Throughout the year, our children have been inquiring into how our community curates and shares knowledge. After researching what is important knowledge, how it can be shared and the types of knowledge a community shares, the children have worked on creating their own museum exhibits for a museum at our school.

After connecting with Cam Hocking at Museum Victoria early in the year we were eager to bring the kids to the museum with a new experience of the school trip to the museum in mind. We didn’t want the experience to be anything they’d had at a museum before. Where they were told what rooms they can be in at a given time and with restrictions put in place because teachers are worried about what the museum staff an visitors would think. We wanted to see how the kids would experience the museum given the chance. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard at times to stand back and not look at my watch. But the kids were taken by what they were seeing. And they were considerate of the others using the museum. They didn’t need me to spend my time shushing them. In not being hung up on what others were thinking or what the kids should be doing, I was able to actually observe what they did. How they interacted with the artefacts. How quickly they moved from one to another. How they didn’t read anything, although much of the museum displays had writing. How they shared what they were seeing with each other and how they documented it with their cameras. The types of exhibits they were attracted to weren’t big or moving, but things they had a connection to. And surprisingly the dinosaurs, weren’t as exciting as the bugs!

But this was just part of the visit to the museum.  What we also wanted to achieve was a different experience for the kids. One were they were engaged and engulfed by the visit. What would it take for them to experience the museum on a deeper level? So after lunch we visited the museum wearing a researcher lens. Children entered with questions about the museum that would help them to build their own museum at school. How are the artefacts displayed? What do the artefacts have in common? What sizes are the artefacts? How wide are the walking paths? What senses are used for each of the displays. Why did they decide on that artefact? I took with me a bag full of tools they might need including measuring tapes, timers, paper, pencils and they all had cameras, iPads and a GoPro to use as well.


You can probably guess what happened next. The kids spent longer at each of the exhibits. They didn’t rush. They questioned each other. They shared their learning. They interacted with the visitors at the museum. It was a completely different experience. And what the children came back with was a different lens in which to visit a museum. Not only was it a mysterious holder of knowledge but armed with the right questions, a day at the museum could be a researcher’s delight that could set the basis for developing our own museum and further strengthening our connections.


As the inquiry continued we had many more great connections with the museum through twitter, hangouts with experts and visits from their team. As we built our own exhibits it was time to visit the museum again, this time with our own artefacts in hand.

With the ongoing relationship and connection we had with the museum we felt it was the perfect time to ask for a request; an activity room to create a School Museum Pop Up and some experts to give us some feedback. Wish granted, we jumped on a tram with arms full with boxes, ready to set up a pop up at the Melbourne Museum.


It is not often you get to have such an authentic experience with real and purposeful feedback. The CEO of Museum Victoria dropped by, as did numerous experts within the museum; designers, curators, volunteers. All giving well considered feedback to the students who couldn’t get enough advice to make changes to their exhibits.  At the end of the day not one child was sad the experience was over as they headed back to school eager to make changes based on the feedback they had received.


And that is not the end of it. This week the museum opened in full at school. Visitors from the community have been invited in between the hours of 10am – 2pm daily to visit, with some very animated tour guides showing them around. And it was not surprising to see some Museum Victoria staff in there eager to see the final product and get their hands on the exhibition booklet.


….all from a connection that started on twitter and ended with the most amazing group of people from a museum, ready to support our learning every step of the way.

Reggio Emilia

I recently attended the Australian Reggio Emilia Conference, which was this year in Melbourne. For a long time I have looked at the Reggio Emilia region with envy as many of my ideals of education are enacted within their city walls, while our policy makers were busy talking about back to basics and mandating phonics. This year I am at a school which is inspired by the Malaguzzi philosophy so it was a great opportunity to attend the conference.

On first looking at the program it appeared to be keynote after keynote, which it pretty much was, but I found myself so mesmerised by the pedagogues and their daily experiences that I didn’t care. And they spoke in their native language, Italian. Now you might be thinking it would make for a very long conference but the pauses from the interpreter gave me valuable thinking time. In contrast to many professional learning opportunities I have had, the two visitors from the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre did not talk about processes or educational outcomes. They spoke of what the children said and did. And the contexts they provided them. It was refreshing to hear educators who were so immersed in their pedagogy that they knew the experiences would speak for themselves. No need for buzz words because the concepts were clear. Educational outcomes were not as important as the moment.

A little insight into the high regard they have for children and the power of listening is seen in this video collated for the World Expo in Milan.

 Here are a few of my take away moments from the conference from Claudia and Francesca.

Children don’t separate the cognitive from the social. They don’t separate the subjects. They make connections. 

Children don’t only learn through spoken words.

The capacity of teachers listening means children’s processes aren’t invisible.

Children offer us opportunities for learning and wonder.

A drawing restructures and experience. Processes of learning are a wavy line, not a straight one.

Children are intimately connected to everything in the world. They treat things of the world the way they treat their peers. Children give voice to the what is invisible in the world.

In difficulties we build defences and shut down. Closure leads to the loss of optimistic view of the present and the future.


A Fringe Festival of Learning

“People don’t go to conferences for presentations. They go for the networking.” Overheard on tram 48, 6.47pm, 16.4.15.

As educators we know and understand the importance of providing authentic, rich and fulfilling learning experiences that provide real world contexts for learning. We provide choice for students and empower them to be lifelong learners, giving them agency to learn from their mistakes. We use contemporary pedagogies and digital technologies to prepare them for a life in the 21st century. Yet, when we attend a conference our learning is not always treated with the same respect we give to our learning design.

This year I am once again the chair of DigiCon, the Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria annual conference and working with a wonderful committee we have been able to step outside what has become the traditional conference structure where educators are led through learning experiences in a linear and set structure.

We started last year with the concept of a self organising conference and have learned a lot from that experience, which has allowed us to go a step further. But how do we change a conference that has a long history of concurrent sessions flanked by keynotes? And how do we change the tradition that a conference is something you come to where you are talked to. It is even more difficult for a not-for profit who relies on the conference to produce other resources and events for students. We knew we wanted to support our delegates through this change, a change we believe will allow us to think about conferences and professional learning differently.

DLTV conference 2014

We wanted people to leave the conference empowered. We believe individuals are in the best place to decide their own learning and to filter what they need and what they don’t. We wanted people to leave sessions in the middle if they are not meeting their expectations but also to contribute. We want them to ask questions, share ideas and to make connections.

When we were designing the conference program at the end of last year we drew inspiration from The Edinburgh Festival Fringe where in 1947 a group of theatres who didn’t want to conform to the traditional constraints of a festival took advantage of the crowds in Edinburgh to showcase their alternative events. DigiCon – a festival of learning, will also have an alternative place to showcase learning. The DigiCon Fringe Festival will allow presenters to showcase what they are doing in digital learning in an alternative setting with no constraints to time, location, people involved or traditions.

We had lots of  interest from presenters who also wanted to think differently about how they present.  In the Fringe Festival we will have a radio station, students coding, developers to chat to, students printing a 3D printer, loads of new gadgets and a series of  inspirational mini keynotes. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the unexpected in The Fringe.

DigiCon15 is on 24th and 25th July 2015 at Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn.

Register at

DLTV - DigiCon 2015 - Logo



Digital Technologies | A Curriculum

Last year I was lucky enough to be involved with VCAA in trialling the new Digital Technologies Curriculum in the primary school.  The AusVELS‘ version of the Australian Curriculum is set to be released later in the year and will be the first time we have seen computer science in the primary curriculum.  After presenting on the weekend about this I had much interest in how I got my head around it and I thought I would share some tips and  my learning.

Unfortunately I can’t share access to the AusVELS documents, you will have to wait for their release and you do have two years before it will be fully implemented so technically there is no rush.  But if you wanted to get a head start and look at the Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies will get you on your way.

1. Before we got into what was written in the curriculum it was important to work out why this is even important.  What is it about computer science that is so important to our students that we should be teaching it. This was easier for us to do by discussing why it was important to teach other domains and we found many similarities to our beliefs around why science is important or why students should be literate or numerate. Splash and Hour of Code are great places to start with videos of the importance of computation thinking and coding in our lives.

2. The second step was to unpack the language of the curriculum.  As with any new subject, it comes a new technical language. Words like ‘data’ really needed to be examined, placed in context and revisited with a new lens to understand the content descriptors within AusVELS.

4. Brainstorm what the content descriptors and achievement standards mean. Bring a few people together if you can, read through the descriptors and standards and discuss.  What does this mean?  What could it look like? Compare and contrast with the other descriptors and statements. It was amazing how much clearer it became when we started to jot these down. Even though it might be difficult to start; try and think of some of the learning activities which may go with these. And don’t forget to make changes as you learn more.  By the end we had much of our thinking scribbled out as we became clearer on what was involved.  If you are looking for some Computer Science related tasks check out Tim Bell’s CS Unplugged.

3. Don’t just look at the level you are teaching.  In order to fully understand the progression of skills and understanding it was important to look ahead to how students would be using the learning in the 3/4 level.  It enabled a clearer context to the expectations.

5.  AusVELS is written to cover 80% of your teaching time.  Therefore we all probably ‘overteach’ the curriculum.  An example of this is the Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies curriculum in Year 3 and 4 is expected to be taught in 80 hours or 40 hours a year. (Australian Curriculum, Shaping the Curriculum).

6. Use your common sense (aka professional knowledge or pedagogy). It is easy to get caught up in the curriculum being a linear, sequenced document and feeling that we should teach this way.  We know that learning, and specifically design, are flexible, iterating and complex journeys and will weave backwards and forwards through stages. Don’t fall into the trap that design follows a plan, build, test and evaluate cycle.  Not all designs start with a plan and they are certainly more iterative than how they appear on paper (that’s not a dig at the curriculum but rather understanding at how difficult it is to put something that is not linear into a written document).

Overall I would recommend dedicating some time to unpacking and understanding the new curriculum.  Not only because it is part of the curriculum but because you have done the first thing on my list and know that it is important for us to be teaching.

Festival of Gaming

At this time of year I love reading everyone’s wrap up of the previous year. Highlight, lowlight, best of.  I am not usually one to write that sort of thing, and if you look back over my year of blogging I haven’t been one to write much at all. No, this is not gong to be a promise to write more but I thought it would give me an opportunity to blog about something I wish I had through the year, the gaming inquiry my class did.

Rigor had been a word I had tried to ignore for so long when it came to inquiry but I think in this inquiry I got the true sense of the word. It feels like I have come full circle in my thinking about inquiry.  From the rigid ‘you’ll do inquiry my way, my process’, to the ‘let the kids go and they will learn’ inquiry. This inquiry was somewhere in the middle.  Did the students have complete freedom to direct their own learning? Yes. Did I influence that decision? Yes, probably. Many times I started my sentences with “It is up to you but can I ask….” and “Have you thought about…?”

The inquiry group was 24 boys who were interested in computers, games, Lego and paper planes.  The first few weeks were spent getting to know what our interests were, identifying what we knew and coming up with some questions which would drive our inquiry.  We found a common love of gaming and groups were formed by the students and the following questions developed.

  • How is music used in gaming?
  • How do you make a good game?
  • How do you make an open world game?
  • How do you get real things in games?
  • How do you make an arcade game?
  • How do you make a game?

And off they went!  During our check ins (Time for sharing what everyone was doing and discussing our next steps) we came up with ideas for finding out what we needed to about gaming.  Some students reviewed games using Sploder and Scratch, others followed tutorials on how to use different platforms. Max from grade 6 was called in as a Scratch expert.  Meanwhile, Max in grade 3 used Code Academy to learn Python. Surveys such as this one asking about the use of music in gaming were analysed to help one group design their own pieces of music using Soundation. Images of arcade gaes were used to come up with a criteria. And yes, there were lots of games played. Some students became experts in certain areas and Max and Gareth skyped another school to teach them about using Sploder.

As the groups developed their own knowledge, changing their opinions as they went and asking more questions a culture of sharing was developed where groups helped each other out in their quest to make their own games.  The music group made music for another group’s game.  Experts using Scratch helped out the music group. The list goes on.

As the games neared completion it was becoming clear we needed to share them. At a later check in it was decided we should have a festival of gaming, both as a website and an event. The festival would have a few aims. Firstly an opportunity for us to share our learning, also to get feedback and finally to prove to our school community that gaming is a good thing. Before the festival there a few things that needed to be done. Marketing had to be organised, venues booked, and the games would need to be finished.  As part of the designing process we knew it was important to have users test our games before the final showcase so the students invited their peers and parents to try out their games, then made the final changes to them in preparation for the festival.

The festival was a huge success.  With large numbers of the school community turning out to play the games, give feedback and learn about gaming through the students led workshops. It was at this stage and during the reflection the following week that I really got to see what the students had learnt about design, the creative process, inquiring, collaborating but more so the confidence they had in their own learning. And this wasn’t from me letting them go nor from telling them how to do it.  But from setting the culture, modelling the inquiry and for one group, me even being a team member sharing ideas and contributing. Would they have pulled it off without me? No.  Would they have had as many people visit their website had it not been for me?  Would the group with the arcade game thought of the idea without me.  Probably not. But what I did do is show them how next time they can do it on their own.  I modelled to them how amazing curiosity, inquiry, determination and failure can be.

Visit the Festival of Gaming Website here to play and review the games and see the videos and gallery.

Watch me talking about the inquiry for AITSL’s Teacher Feature.

Startup Weekend Education Melbourne

Last weekend saw the first Startup Weekend Education in Melbourne and I was lucky enough to be one of the organisers.  Startup Weekends are typically a grassroot movement to empower entrepreneurs….. although ours was a little different.  Education Startup Weekends are typically aimed at entrepreneurs to work with educators to develop ideas for education….. but ours was a little different.

With my fellow organisers, Kynan Robinson and Hamish Curry we had attended similar events in the past but had felt there was another level to these weekends.  We aimed to bring more rigor to the event and ensure it was about learning from the process.  To do this we enlisted the help of Marina Paronetto, who helped us to connect with the startup world.  The concept of the weekend was to bring developers and designers from the startup world together with inspired educators to solve some of the big issues in education.  Participants were invited to pitch their educational problems in one minute and teams were formed to work on solving the problem over the rest of the weekend.  The emphasis was on problems rather than ideas as the last thing education needs is another solution that overlooks the problem.

Early on the Saturday morning teams came together to define their problem.  They spoke to educators, researched their area and spent the first day finding patterns in their problem to help them ideate.  We really wanted to focus on this part of the process for teams and encouraged them to find out as much as possible before jumping into building ideas as so often we see the problem being lost in the solutions. Once they had defined the problem, teams worked on coming up with different ideas before choosing one to prototype.

Our amazing coaches arrived to support teams and things started to get busy.  By Saturday night teams were starting to validate their ideas in the market using surveys and asking for feedback from their networks. By Sunday morning teams were out and about on the streets gathering feedback and iterating their initial ideas to create a solution to pitch at the final presentation. Some teams had prototyped websites and others had set up social media accounts.

Regardless of what was pitched at the final on Sunday we wanted the process to be the winner of the weekend.  After I attended my first Eduhack event I was really excited by what I could learn from the startup methodology and it was evident that I could use this process to make change in education.  I also realised how much the startup community could learn from actually talking to an educator and hearing about what it is really like in education.  This was a big part of the weekend where people got to learn from each other by working together. It was also the reason we took the competition out of the weekend, which allowed teams to be more collaborative and work together to solve problems.

As you can imagine after a weekend of early mornings, late nights and head hurting thinking everyone was exhausted by Sunday night but the accomplishments of the weekend made every minute worthwhile.  It was very humbling to think we had these 30 odd designers, developers and educators learning from each other to solve real problems in education. Although there were some amazing ideas and projects to come out of the weekend more so it was the learning from each other in an intense process of design that was the highlight.

Like any intense event like this I have spent the week in a state of loss as I said goodbye to people I met over the weekend. Dare I say, I can’t wait for the next one. Sometime in the future….


The #DLTV2014 Conference

It is hard to believe it is only a bit over a week since the first Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria Annual Conference.  It was a two day conference focussing on using digital tools for teaching and learning and innovation in our classrooms, which is the core focus of DLTV, the newly formed subject association.  DLTV works to ensure  “every learner is enabled, inspired and empowered to participate, contribute and shape their world through digital technology”.  It replaces what were two established subject associations in Victoria, VITTA and ICTEV.  As the two associations merged in January, forming DLTV, this was technically a first conference, although we were very lucky to bring our experiences from both organisations.

I was fortunate enough to be the chair for the conference meaning I was part of the planning from day one, which consisted of thinking of a theme. The theme, creating new connections, came very quickly to us and it made a lot of sense from our first meeting.  As educators we are always making connections, and so are our students as they learn. As two former subject associations we were making new connections in coming together. And the icing on the cake was that all of us on the conference committee know how important it is for educators to be connected in contemporary learning.

Once we had our theme in place we met to discuss what we wanted to achieve from the conference. For some time now I have been a big believer that professional learning is changing and there is no better team to be making that change than DLTV. Co- committee member, Kynan Robinson, is also passionate about modern learning (you can read his blog post about the conference here) and we knew we wanted to offer something to our delegates that reflected that if professional learning is changing so is our conference but at the same time provide an environment where people feel confident and comfortable.

It was from this discussion the the concept of a self organising conference came from.  What if the presenters got together and designed their own conference? What if some presenters decided not to have a structured 45 minute presentation but a session that you move in and out of at your own pace? What if the presenters decided to  team up and present rather than repeating the same sessions? And that was the direction we took.

Rather than asking for abstracts, which never really made sense to me anyway, we put a call out for expressions of interests.  No particular focus, no boundaries, no making your presentation fit.  Instead we looked at what the presenters wanted to present on and grouped these to make streams. From here we put these presenters in contact with each other to organise how their stream would run for the two days.   In some streams this was as simple as organising the order of their presentations.  For others it gave the opportunity to start the planning of their presentations fresh and working together to develop streamlined sessions.  Some presenters decided to pair up and present together while others decided to finish the day with a  panel of all the presenters in that stream.

One stream even took it a step further and decided to create a gaming in education playground which ran around three learning experiences. Delegates who headed to the session could participate in learning through presentation, learning through play and learning through experience. It was such an exciting area of the conference to drop by to as people were making poetry with Lego, playing Mario Bros with the Makey Makey and of course the very popular old style console games.



Along side the gaming stream was the Institute of the Modern Learner.  At first the IOTML was not clear. A card handed by a nameless man in a jacket. A tweet here and there with the hashtag #fixthefuture. And then they started to infiltrate the keynotes.  A slide in Adrian Camm’s keynote followed by more tweets claiming we didn’t see anything.  It certainly had the imagination going and made you feel like you were part of something but at the same time know nothing. “The institute” is looking for thinkers who may be discouraged with the system to experiment and trial modern learnering, as we found at the end of the conference when they took over the final keynote! For me it was a great moment when two presenters took over the stage and talked of their passion as it proved it really is a conference owned by the delegates and presenters.

There were many aspects of the conference that I am very proud of.  One of them was having four Victorian keynotes (3 of which were teachers in classrooms) who demonstrated why we are leading the way in education.   And as Narissa Leung, our afternoon keynote, told us, is why we have the best educators in the world and was happy that DLTV are celebrating that.  For too long now we have flown in educators when we have such high quality educators right here in Victoria.  This was certainly reiterated by the speakers themselves as they opened with a thanks to DLTV for finally putting Victorian Educators on the stage.

Also at conference after conference I have seen more and more male keynotes and it had continued to puzzle me as I know there are so many amazing female educators doing innovating learning and teaching in our schools.  It was great to get two of these females on stage at DLTV and they certainly showed that women in education are great speakers, innovative teaches and have so much to share.  Both Britt  Gow and Narissa Leung were articulate with their message for educational change, engaging and passionate and had the audience enthralled as they shared their narrative of digital learning and teaching. Of course our other keynotes Adriam Camm and Khoa Doh were also exceptional.  Adrian started the conference with a  provoking presentation which made us doubt what we knew but  at the same time make the audience feel like they could make change right now. As for Khoa Doh, the moment he finished speaking I thought crowd’s applause would never stop. It was a special moment in the conference, reminding us that not everything is about technology but from our stories and experiences we can learn so much.


Another moving moment was when Roland Guesthuasen used Morse code to send a message to space for Maggie Iaquinto who had passed away the week before the conference.  Maggie was such an important member of the IT community and much loved by VITTA and ICTEV.  She had a remarkable history  and the news of her passing certainly put a sombre feeling across the office and committee.  It was fitting that Roland chose to send a message into space for Maggie as she was the first civilian to speak to cosmonauts on Mir.  Using her computer and radio she was able to connect with over 19 cosmonauts over a number of years, using the little Russian she knew to assist her.  Later she set up an amateur radio station at her school so her IT students could quiz space scientists about the technology used on-board Mir.

On reflecting on the conference there are so many highlights it is difficult to list them all.  Some are around the structure, like having 15 minutes between sessions to chat and network, while others were around people like seeing pre service teachers presenting in their first conference.  Of course, regardless of what you do at a conference you are always judged by the quality of your wifi and food.  And I am confident in saying that we nailed it! Our catering was spot on for the dreary Melbourne day and not once did I have any problems with the wifi.

As exhausted as I was after the conference, I was certainly reinvigorated by reading through the tweets and feedback from delegates.  It was such as great feeling having positive feedback to the small changes we had made and the hard work we put in to ensuring delegates were able to experience n the conference in a new and exciting way. So where to next year?  Well, there is plenty more to do!  Certainly some tweaking from this year; better maps to get around, rethinking the rooms and learning spaces and getting more students involved.  Well, best get planning I guess!





Professional Learning | Really?

You may have seen this YouTube clip that is circling social media at the moment.

It was taken at a Chicago Professional Development session and was shared as an example of why teachers are going out of their minds on the Washington Post blog, Answer Sheet. In the last couple of days I have also read Wes Fryer’s post, with a good reminder not to turn this into a stereotype and also Larry Ferlazzo’s blog, who felt “Yes, you can make a lot of things look bad taken out of context, but I don’t think a case can be made that this is appropriate for any professional development, or classroom, context….”

When I first watched it many emotions swarmed inside me; sadness, horror, embarrassment, anger, disbelief. At one stage I may have laughed at the outrageousness of it all.

There is one part of the video which continues to niggle at me. What makes me most upset is that no one stood up to it.  Are we so disempowered that we can’t stand up for what we know is right? Every teacher in the room knows this is not learning. But still they responded and chanted. And if I had been there I would have done exactly the same thing. I know that because I do already. I sit through “content delivery” at professional development after professional development and I feel myself being patronised but I continue to put up with it. I know better but still I let it go on.

If there is anything I can learn from this video it is that I need to speak up. I shouldn’t sit by and let this happen. I need to offer support to those facilitating professional learning and offer feedback. Not in a  survey but in a real face to face feedback.  I need to use my knowledge and experience about learning and share this with others.  I need to encourage others not to accept this either and nor should our students. I need to take a stand so this doesn’t become the stereotype of professional learning in any setting.


Climbing the Story Mountain


Image: ‘
Found on

It is no secret that I miss the classroom.  After leaving the classroom 16 months ago I knew I would.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the work I do and the new learning I have been able to do has been amazing.  But the joy you get from trying something new and having a direct reaction to that is something I don’t get to do on a daily basis.  I have always been the type of teacher that will be walking by the lake on a Sunday morning and have an idea or make a connection and think about how I might be able to use that in the classroom.  I still have those ideas but often I don’t get the opportunity to put them into action.

I haven’t much talked about my role as an educational designer but, put simply, I work on 3 areas with academics; building resources, promoting self directed professional learning and providing opportunities for academics to network and share what they are doing.  I love the freedom my role has to think outside the box and offer different perspectives and ideas.

Quite often in my role I bring in what I have learnt in teaching to the team.  I am certainly the only person in the office to have a craft box and although mocked a lot, people still come by to use it!  My classroom pedagogy is definitely used when I present or workshop with others but in a business centric environment it is not often I get to bring my classroom experience to meetings.

Last week, however, did bring one of those opportunities.  Our team is in the process of creating  a 3 minute video explaining the purpose of our team and what we are trying to achieve.  It has been a difficult process trying to work out what direction the video should take and one I am glad to not to have been responsible for. But when we started discussing how the video should tell a story and be a narrative of what we were trying to do my mind started ticking over.

In the classroom if I was planning a narrative I would have used a story mountain, a  planning tool to set out the beginning., build up, dilemma, resolution and ending.  Why not use the same idea with our planning?

So we went to work.  My wonderful colleague ran the session for all of our team and although I could see people thinking what a waste of time, it was a highly successful activity.  As we are not always clear about our direction, what we want to achieve is difficult to articulate.  Enter story mountain.  By playing out the characters and thinking of it as a story, a bit like a fairytale, we were able to set out the journey we want to take.  The change we want to make.

The beginning described our setting.  where are we now and what does our current environment look like. Who are the people involved and who is the main character. The build up became the urgency of change.  Why did the change need to happen?  The dilemma is the barriers.  What we expected might get in our way and things we needed to overcome to get to the end. The resolution is the moment we will see some change and what it will look like and of course the ending became what we wanted to see at the end.  The change embedded and sustainable.

It has made it a lot easier to see what we are trying to do and where we are on our journey.  And I look forward to using it again for planning, especially in schools. It asks the questions such as what do we look like now and what do we want to be?  What could be the barriers along the way? At the end of change what do we want to look like.

Now I can’t wait to look back at the difference we have been able to make and rewrite the story.