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.




Learning Spaces and Design

Professor Robert Fitzgerald is from University of Canberra and is the Director of the Inspire Centre.  He addressed the PD theatre at Edutech during the morning session I was able to get to. He was talking on the design of learning spaces.

He is interested in the combination of space, pedagogy and design and the Inspire Centre embodies much of their work.    He talked about:

  • the importance of building connections
  • making the product and process visible
  • the notion of visible learning
  • the need to take a more expansive view of learning


He is interested in the narrative behind what we do and why we do it and addressing the idea of what the barriers to change are.



Design is fundamentally about team work.


How do we create spaces that foster creativity.  How do we inspires the processes of imagination?



We need to move from the notion of space to place as this is much more encompassing.


There is such a change in skill demand – see graph.  How are we fostering the 4Cs that basically represent the ability to carry out the skills that are more in demand?


Great books for challenging and changing mindsets.


Interesting research re learning sciences.



Graph showing the comparison between learning outcomes between students in classes with traditional lectures and those experiencing active learning in STEM based subjects.  Mazur “It is almost unethical to be lecturing”.



Let’s look at the quality of learning…..we are trying to move to deeper and slower thinking.  Use the TPCK model too to encourage teachers to find their sweet spot for learning – to find a balance  and to find the spot where the three elements interact.






TEAL Room – Technology Enhanced Active Learning.  Writeable surfaces in efforts to make the process visible.  Blend of analogue and digital.



They have worked with Questacon and National Portrait Gallery….and used design thinking to work with students who wanted to leave their influence or impact on the collections.


They have also worked with AR within various areas of the university including making this Alumni interactive gallery.


Final ongoing challenge – design thinking is a generative process – a set of tools to assist us to utilise a team oriented approach.

Banning Laptops

An article published in the SMH about Sydney Grammar Principal John Vallance and his views about technology said as much about his views of teaching and learning as it did about technology use. The principal was was pictured  in the article in front of a Latin class with students in rows sitting in front of the teacher.   This is a picture that, without the short throw projector at the front of the room, could have been taken at any time within the last century…..and certainly would have been a standard image from a classroom before the last 10 years of technological revolution.

In making a conscious decision to ban laptops from his school, Mr Vallance has chosen to ignore the advances and changes  in the world that have occurred in the  last 10 years.  In doing so, he has chosen to ignore any advantage in terms of learning opportunities for his teachers and students.  Many of these opportunities, such as online collaboration,  would provide depth and scope to the very type of learning he espouses.   

Other opportunities include but are certainly not limited to:

  • the opening up of individual lines of inquiry to students with real world applications
  • enabling students to work with teachers to become accustomed to interacting with the vast amounts of information that needs to sifted and critiqued,
  • enabling students to have options to express themselves and to create artefacts of their understanding. 
  • the powerful assistive use of technology and taking advantage of the ability it provides for the playing field to be ‘levelled’ for many students.

He names teaching as a social activity.  I agree. 

He talks about teacher quality.  I agree.  Teacher quality has never been more important and I don’t see that technology will ever replace an effective teacher who also invests time,  energy and a growth mindset towards the adaption and adoption of new technologies.

I agree with other points he makes.   The billions misguidedly invested in the Digital Education Revolution, which used taxpayer funds to buy laptops for high school students was misguided.   Instead, there should have been a significant component of this money allocated to the provision of professional learning opportunities for teachers to use technology when appropriate, across the curriculum.

The Australian Curriculum provides expectations for what all Australian students should be taught in Australia.   Schools are then responsible for the design of that learning so that the learning needs of their students are being met.   One of the key documents used to guide the design and intent of this curriculum was an agreement signed by the Federal Government in 2008.  Titled the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, it is a call to action and sets out to achieve the following:

Successful learners:

  • develop their capacity to learn and play an active role in their own learning
  • have the essential skills in literacy and numeracy and are creative and productive users of technology, especially ICT, as a foundation for success in all learning areas
  • are able to think deeply and logically, and obtain and evaluate evidence in a disciplined way as the result of studying fundamental disciplines
  • are creative, innovative and resourceful, and are able to solve problems in ways that draw upon a range of learning areas and disciplines
  • are able to plan activities independently, collaborate, work in teams and communicate ideas
  • are able to make sense of their world and think about how things have become the way they are
  • are on a pathway towards continued success in further education, training or employment, and acquire the skills to make informed learning and employment decisions throughout their lives
  • are motivated to reach their full potential.

Confident and creative individuals:

  • have a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing
  • have a sense of optimism about their lives and the future
  • are enterprising, show initiative and use their creative abilities
  • develop personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for others
  • have the knowledge, skills, understanding and values to establish and maintain healthy, satisfying lives
  • have the confidence and capability to pursue university or post-secondary vocational qualifications leading to rewarding and productive employment
  • relate well to others and form and maintain healthy relationships
  • are well prepared for their potential life roles as family, community and workforce members
  • embrace opportunities, make rational and informed decisions about their own lives and accept responsibility for their own actions.

Active and informed citizens:

  • act with moral and ethical integrity
  • appreciate Australia’s social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, and have an understanding of Australia’s system of government, history and culture
  • understand and acknowledge the value of Indigenous cultures and possess the knowledge, skills and understanding to contribute to, and benefit from, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
  • are committed to national values of democracy, equity and justice, and participate in Australia’s civic life
  • are able to relate to and communicate across cultures, especially the cultures and countries of Asia
  • work for the common good, in particular sustaining and improving natural and social environments
  • are responsible global and local citizens.

(Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians page 7-9)

General capabilities are a key dimension of the Australian Curriculum. They encompass knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that, together with curriculum content in each learning area and the cross-curriculum priorities, will assist students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century.  By using ICT as a general capability, students are becoming confident and creative users of ICT – to do this – they should be using ICT across and within all curriculum areas – such that it is a tool and that when it is the best tool for the job – it  is used.

I am not sure how the provision of laptops within labs, as the Principal of Sydney Grammar discusses, supports the use of ICT as a General Capability.   ACARA pinpoint the effective use of the General Capabilities as key component in the work we must all do collaboratively to prepare students for their future lives.

Michael Fullan is a worldwide authority on educational reform with a mandate of helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children learning.   When discussing the steady decline of student engagement throughout schooling, he identifies a solution:

“…….it lies in the concentration of the three forces of pedagogy, technology, and change knowledge. If you want to head off destruction, we need to make it all about learning, let technology permeate, and engage the whole system.”

Possibly we have over-estimated the potential of technology in the past.  The OECD  certainly has found that schools are yet to take advantage of the potential of technology

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate | technology into teaching and learning  to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”

but by banning and removing technology we are removing from students and teachers the potential for technology to enhance learning, to make thinking visible, to remove borders and enhance collaboration, to expose students to different worlds and opinions to their own, and for students to create their own knowledge and solutions.

Written in the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda:

“An estimated 75 per cent of jobs in the fastest-growing industries in the next five to 10 years will need science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and almost all jobs will require ICT literacy.”

So, what does all this mean for schools?  As educators we have such a huge responsibility to ensure that the part we play in preparing our students for their futures is one that

So, in a time when there are so many jostling priorities for schools, how does a community work together to ensure that we are meeting the challenge of preparing our students for an uncertain future whilst still retaining that which will always be important in teaching and learning?  I would suggest that we:

  1.  Accept that our own experiences of schooling aren’t those that we should use to judge our children’s experiences.    This is difficult but If we are unable to do this, we risk making huge mistakes. 

2.  Along with no. 1 (above), it is important to question our assumptions.  Our assumptions are based on our own experiences and the lessons learnt from our own experiences might not necessarily be those we should be applying to our children’s present and future.

3.  Understand that pedagogy is the driver in any learning.   A range of pedagogies is essential for any learning and balance is key.  The use of technology can be used to accelerate pedagogy and can play a different role depending on pedagogy.

4.   A school needs to be become a ‘learning organisation’ (Fullan, Technology and the Problem of Change) –  with teachers and the organisation itself committed to understanding and enacting improvement.   This can often mean collaborative work cultures (or professional learning networks) with teachers becoming learners and enactors of change for improvement. 

Other articles written since the first article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald: