One Step More….


Photo by Zak Elley on Unsplash

It’s been a while since my last blog entry – 9 months to be exact.   Last year was a difficult year for me on a personal level.   Work also was in a state of flux and reading through my last few blog entries, I am reminded that I was battling to stay positive amidst major changes after a two year journey of leaps, bounds, achievements and the attainment of goals that made me tremendously excited about the journey we were on.  2018 did finish brilliantly,  however – with my family and I heading to Europe on a  4 month long visit.     

Fast forward 9 months.     Where am I now?   I’m at the end of a 2 day conference trip to Melbourne, awaiting my flight to take me home where I will arrive 3 days before we start a new term.  If I’d written this yesterday, at the end of the first day of the conference, I think I would have been writing a similar blog post to what I did a few years ago when I was bemoaning that I was sick of hearing the same messages at these types of events, that I wasn’t seeing any real evidence of change, that the people who set the learning agenda for my state weren’t  concerned about crowded educational agendas  and that the people above me were still having to operate within an environment of red and green data.

But today I got to revisit a few key messages about the value of the real work that we, as innovators,  are all doing in our schools.  Much of this was delivered by Tom Barrett.   A bit of background – as a school, we first engaged with Tom a few years ago at the start of a journey with the use of design thinking to support creativity and inquiry.  Our first steps with this were related to the support of ‘practitioner inquiry’ – we were strategically working towards embedding inquiry learning within our curriculum units and to up-skill our teachers – we had chosen to immerse them in learning which would provide them with insights into the mindset, skillset and toolset of inquiry and design.  We also worked with our leadership team on aspects of strategic inquiry.

During the beginning of  Tom’s keynote he reminded the audience of the work he does within a range of industries – not just within education – and that lessons he has learnt within these other industries often have important learning considerations that can apply to the education context.   He looked at the ‘Theory of Diffusion’ that is often shared with tech leaders and told us that this is something that was originally designed to allow its creator to show how farmers use different types of crops.   He cautioned us against using models like this to label people or to simplify a process which might not be appropriate to represent people.  He added that it is much more likely that people will change at a very slow rate and that technology and innovation will have to change to match people or groups of people.


When Tom spoke about the nature of Innovation – there were a couple of ideas that really resonated with me in terms of where I find myself now and the state of dissonance through which I am worried I am suffering.  Tom spoke about the idea that innovation compresses and that we must make decisions about what to let go.  This is often necessary in order to free up our time and energy to do new things.  But then at the same time – he spoke about how innovation is often tethered and will rely on things that are already in place and working – things that can be left alone to continue working.

So what is my context right now?  What should I be working on? What should I stop working on? What do I need to appreciate as something that is embedded enough that it can be viewed as the seed to even more exciting innovations?

A feature of my personality seems to be that I am happy operating within a perpetual state of having too much to do.  I get easily excited by new ideas and can not stand the idea of staying still for too long.  I get bored quickly with things that I feel like I’ve mastered or even just started and feel ready to move on easily to something else.  Is the state I find myself now – when I mention suffering through a state of dissonance  – something of my own making?  And if so, is it working to actually hinder my progress in the areas that are the most important to the learners within my community right now? 

So what SHOULD be my areas of focus right now:

We need to focus on the really great work we have been doing that has been going well and to make sure that the momentum is not lost as we move forward.  My major responsibility in terms of learning/curriculum has been the STEAM year level planning.   What has rapidly dawned on me during this planning is that we are doing is so much broader than STEM/STEAM.  STEAM has simply given us a platform to start exploring authentic and connected learning.    It is serving to:

  • reconnect teachers with the intent of the curriculum
  • engage them with finding alignments between areas of the curriculum
  • encourage a deeper understanding of the General Capabilities within the Australian Curriculum
  • reconnect them with our School Vision and our STEAM vision.

But is the relevance to our school vision seen by others?  Is there a clear line of sight?  What other work must be done to ensure that this is the case?

Another are in which I must focus energy is coaching and supporting others to implement these STEAM units.


Other areas of my responsibility include:

The ‘Young Innovators Program’ and a possible opportunity right now for expansion.

This program has been operating for the last 2 years.  It engages around 130 students each of 3 terms in the year.   So, is this what can now be kept running with minimal input?   Or, are my plans to include it in the options for the school professional learning models going to mean that this is a continuing high effort model?  Or is this expansion a really good example of reinvention which Tom also mentioned today as a feature of innovation? 

I have to remind myself that my hopes for the Young Innovator Program were always that this model of extracurricular learning opportunities would be replaced by high quality, real world, authentic learning within our learning models.  Do I look at this program as the final year?  And,  am I my own worst enemy when considering the current opportunity for expanding this program?   In letting go, what am I risking?

Our Existing ‘Bring Your Own Device’ Program

This includes the support of this program, the considerations about possible expansion, the preparation for a new year, the support of parents, my often all consuming need to document and share stories of how tech is supporting and transforming learning etc.

Is this something that can be just now supported with minimal effort – transferring into high effort in the final term as we prepare for a new year?   Our best results in our Departments’s Parent Survey in the last year have been the improvements in our community’s understanding of how technology is used to support learning.  Does this mean that I am ready to let the high amount of energy that goes into this go?  In letting go – what am I risking?

Digital Citizenship

We have just been accredited as an eSmart School.    Is this a perfect example then of something I need to immediately start minimising effort within?  As a minimum I would need to:

  1. Publish the new ‘I can…’ statements
  2.  Ensure this area of DigiTech is being reported on this term 


In letting go – what am I risking?

I do get anxious when I consider reducing the amount of effort I put into these areas, and so this question is quite relevant.    I am happy with how they are all going.   Do these programs now need so much ongoing effort?



Other Areas of Note:

Tom shared his key take-aways at the end of his keynote which prompted me to think about a few additional things for this term:

Share a language of learning – how can we establish the language of learning within our STEAM work?    I’ve already started making the classroom helper tools.    This needs to be viewed as important work – we need to share these at a staff meeting, We need to look at the General Capabilities and establish a clear line of sight between the CC thinking and the STEAM work.  The Social and Personal Capability is the area of the curriculum that refers to Collaboration – we need to do work on this but for 2018, I feel the Critical and Creative Thinking GC is the primary one to focus on.

Tom:  Share a language of learning and try to be forensic as possible.

Tom:  Challenge your assumptions.

What am I assuming????   What do I need to challenge?

Tom:  Don’t lose sight of what works. in order for us to take risks – we need to remember that which  is working

Tom: Design better learning proxies – how is what we are looking at a good proxy of learning?  What can we design in terms of assessment that is a better way of gathering evidence of what kids learn and making assessments?

We have a perfect opportunity to do this with the new units of work.  But we are also bound to the format for our Guide to Making Judgements.   Should we explore the possibl addition of  CC capabilities within the assessments we design? Should we find out if ONeSchool even makes that a possibility?  This seems to represent one key step towards creating a line of sight between assessment and our school vision. But does our reporting system even allow this to occur?




My Actions Post Palooza

I have had an awesome few days at iPadPalooza on the Gold Coast as summarised by the blog posts below.  I like to take a copious amount of notes at these events as I find my memory later fails me for details when I am speaking to others..  So, this is what I will do and then over the days that follow – I tend to reflect and think on actions that might be relevent for my own site.

It’s interesting to me that my take-aways from events like this are no longer about the technology.   Of course, there were some great tips on apps from some truly talented iPadPalooza greats – especially to do with coding, art, connecting with nature and STEM – but my key learnings are always now about change and how it can be managed to cater for the future of the kids we work with.

So here are my take-aways:

Change is an opportunity to do things differently

This is something that has been at the forefront of my mind for years now.  I really need to accept however that this is not how everyone views change.   Design thinking is currently providing us with a tremendous opportunity – It’s providing teachers with a tool for change, innovation and reflection  and it’s providing teachers with a tool to design curriculum.   This is wonderful change.    Let’s keep the momentum going.

The need to keep going

We have come so far.   And it’s tempting to start congratulating ourselves and to risk ‘resting on our laurels’.    But when I hear from people like Richard Wells – I feel quite simply overwhelmed at how much further there is to go.   And I’m pretty sure that our system is 20 years behind that of New Zealand.  But what we have to do is to understand and appreciate that the small steps we have taken have to continue.   We have to stop accommodating teacher comfort and assumptions and the industrial model that we all still naturally operate comfortably within and we need to start evolving our community of learners towards a new model of learning – one that places students at the centre and one which fosters THEIR creativity, THEIR independence, THEIR resilience and THEIR knowledge of self and what THEY are good at.

  • We need to realise that our school vision is a tremendous opportunity to justify doing things differently.  We need to keep the conversation evolving regarding its implications.
  • We need to keep placing the reality of the future in front of our community ALL THE TIME.  Assumptions are quite powerful and we need to start initiating conversations with the reminder to put them aside.
  • We need to carefully consider groups like Yr 2 and 3 because they are the ones who will be the proof of our vision in 3 years time.     Are those groups starting 2017 with a new focus on process over product and design?  Are they?  How will their beginning of 2017 be different from 2016 after a year of learning?   WILL IT?

The need to include wellness in our approach

  • Michael Carr-Gregg was excellent in the way he made it so crystal clear that if we aren’t managing children’s wellness – then they aren’t learning at optimum levels.
  • Our new Social and Emotional program presents many opportunities in this regard.
  • There are clear alignments between children managing and growing their own independence and wellness.  We need to recognise the importance of this connection.

So, moving away from my broad ideas –

Practical ideas and possibilities:

  1. Can the school visit in Week 1 of Term 4 from NoT be focussed on Yr 2 and 3 teachers?
  2. Can the 2017 year start with activities designed to remind staff of our vision and what this means in a practical sense.
  3. The Yr 5 work on Design Thinking with Geography/DigiTech unit needs to be shared with staff.    Similarly the Yr 6 work using design thinking.  We need to actually hear from the teachers involved and learn from their experiences – warts and all.
  4. Is it possible that Week 1 of 2017 for every class has a focus on Social and Emotional Learning AND the Design Thinking process?  And that they don’t jump straight into more teacher delivered content?
  5. Can we speak to our student high achievers and ask them how learning could be different and what frustrates them?  Then share this
  6. Can we continue to work with our teachers to encourage reflection and growth in learning.
  7. The pitches from Round 2 PI need to have outcomes/results.



FutureSchools – March, 2016

I’ve been at the National Future Schools conference for the last few days in Sydney.  It was much smaller than Edutech and my immediate reaction was to feel more comfortable in the intimate atmosphere that this created for the attendees.    I was presenting in the Young Learners strand of this conference – about Supporting Young Innovators of the Future:

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 12.17.37 pm

My school was also facilitating a round table discussion on the Advancing Education agenda in QLD and the CodingCounts initiative within this – the Government’s plan to fast-track the Digital Technologies curriculum in its State Schools in QLD.   Additionally, my principal was a member of panel discussing the same topic.  It was an amazing opportunity for our school and I have to admit that I only realised this post conference, when my presentation nerves were gone, all was done and I had regained some much needed sleep.

A video I saw in Peggy Sheehy’s session on gaming in the classroom is a nice way to start this blog entry:

Peggy’s session started brilliantly well and I enjoyed the passion, enthusiasm and the provocative nature of many of her messages.  She also shared this lovely poem by Carol Tomlinson.   Peggy uses World of Warcraft in her teaching and other games and is considered a pioneer in the use of commercial games for education.  She brought up something I have been wondering lately – ever since Microsoft bought Minecraft – and that is about what happens when we take hold of games for educational reasons and we ‘edufy’ them – is this a good thing or a bad thing?    Will Microsoft take Minecraft and ‘tweak’ it to the point where it no longer grabs kids’ souls, imaginations and interest?   Should we, rather,  be taking the commercial games, as they are and simply trying to understand what it is that makes them so beguiling to children and then to try to harness that for learning……instead of taking them and trying to control them and shape them so that we are the experts and so that we are ultimately in control?

I always like to summarise the key take-aways for me in terms of what I learned and to keep these to about 3 or 4.  Here they are:

  1.  The power of collaboration between teachers and particularly teachers who are on different year levels, with different skills and areas of expertise.     Larry Rosenstock for example, spoke about the amazing things he sees on a daily basis when he supports a pairing like a physics teacher and an art teacher.
  2. The schools who are doing really innovative, student centred things are the schools that recognise that ‘silos’ of curriculum aren’t the most effective way of preparing our students for tomorrow’s world.  The ‘Fuse’ program by Surf Coast Secondary College is a great example of this.  This school involves their students in ‘Fuse’ for just under half their time at school.

    The school increased flexibility and choice in the curriculum, increased student-centred activities, problem-solving and creativity by fusing subjects together and teaching students in open spaces. This has led to integrated and in-depth learning and flexibility of involvement. Technology is important with everything online and lessons focused on meaningful discussions and collaboration

    3. The MakerSpace mentality is one that should infuse into teacher mindsets and student mindsets.  It is also one that directly supports the implementation of the Digital Technology curriculum.  This is a great video about this alignment:

4.  Design Thinking is absolutely the right thing for us to be doing.

5.  We are absolutely on the right path in terms of what we are doing with the DigiTech curriculum and we need to maintain this momentum as we move forward.

Things I’m wondering:

  • How might we give more agency to teachers wanting to trial really innovative practice?     This may include a trial of hexagonal thinking in a year level to lead to the ‘de-silofication’ of curriculum.  Does everyone have to wait until they have done a whole year of practitioner inquiry?
  • How might we tweak the MakerSpace so that students are doing more than tinkering and sharing?  And how can more of this mindset be supported in classrooms?

Links to summarise on other sessions – already nicely done by others, are  below:

Claire Amos  on Jane Hunter

Claire on her own presentation

Claire on partnerships between schools and corporations:

Claire on Makerspaces – a talk by Stephen Lethbridge

Claire on Darren Cox and a culture of learning

A summary by  Michael Eggenhuizen | Director ICT, of sessions I saw:

Larry Rosenstock – CEO of High Tech High – laments the fact that schools are not keeping up with a changing world. He begins his keynote with a Socrates quote, “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”. He asks the audience to think about their school education and who were those teachers that had passion that drew students into the subject and made them think – we should thank these teachers! Rosenstock spoke of the ‘old education paradigm’ that still exists in schools today, sitting in rows, facing the front, compartmentalised subjects, teacher-led lessons, measuring student success on knowledge. He says that schools need to break these old molds and move with a changing world! Rosenstock gives us a glimpse of what takes place at High Tech High, a school where students are chosen by zip code rather than on ability. He draws on a quote from Dewey, “understanding derives from activity”. At High Tech High students learn through activity. Project-based learning replaces compartmentalised subjects. Students work in collaborative groups in open spaces that on the surface appear to be disorganised. Students work on real-world problems and solve them using realworld tools. Student work is displayed in public exhibitions and around the school. He relayed a story about how Year 5 students at High Tech High, wanting to eradicate rats and mice from school classrooms, researched the problem and, wanting to steer away from traps, chemicals and dangerous predators, came up with a solution to use barn owls. Barn owls eat approximately 2000 rats and mice a year! So the solution was to build a number of barn owl habitats around the school – problem solved! Read Claire Amos’ summary of keynote. Watch this High Tech High video created by students

Erin Weightman – Assistant Principal – Surf Coast Secondary College – says engagement & collaboration are key to learning. She quotes Newman who says “student engagement occurs when students make a psychological investment in learning”. Schools should invent the future rather than fixing the past. She quotes Ken Robinson in saying that humans are different and diverse, inherently creative and that curiosity is the engine of achievement. Weightman says the same old same old approach to teaching and learning in schools is often the result of an “it’s all too hard” frame of mind. Excuses like, we need to teach the curriculum, what about NAPLAN, the students will be too hard to control, we can’t change the timetable, the principal won’t let us do that, stifle creativity, engagement and collaboration in schools. To overcome these barriers at Surf Coast Secondary College, Weightman says that they needed to educate the students, teachers and parents about what the school was doing and why they were doing it this way. The school increased flexibility and choice in the curriculum, increased student-centred activities, problem-solving and creativity by fusing subjects together and teaching students in open spaces. This has led to integrated and in-depth learning and flexibility of involvement. Technology is important with everything online and lessons focused on meaningful discussions and collaboration. Claire Amos’ summary.