Who Would Be In Your Creative Council?


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In a post exploring the challenge of gathering different perspectives, Tom Barrett spoke about Thomas Edison’s practise of convening a creative council. A group of people who allowed Edison to ‘cast widely’ in order to accelerate creative connections.  Reflecting on this, Barrett poses the idea of having our own ‘creative council’. Not necessarily a group of literal people, rather an imaginary group who you could turn to answer such questions as:

  • What would…think?
  • How would … approach this problem?
  • What actions would … take next?

I have discussed the idea of turning to imaginary figures before. However, I had never really thought of a ‘set council’. What was interesting is that every time I started a list, I just felt that it did not have enough breadth either in time, experience or gender. I decided I needed a range of people including a religious figure, a scientist, an artist, a military strategist, a philosopher and a musician. Here then is my creative council, a group of people who I think would make for some interesting conversation:

  • Nicolaus Copernicus: Let alone for his breadth of work and experience, Copernicus persisted a truth that lie outside the view of so many others, even with the consequences it might have.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: As much as I think that it would be interesting to have Richard D. James at a table, I wonder what Mozart could add to the discussion. Like Copernicus, Mozart’s ability to envisage new beginnings and possibilities always intrigues me.
  • Jane Austen: I remember growing up with the BBC costume dramas, thinking I someone knew Jane Austen. However, like so many, I believe there is more than meets the eye with Jane Austen.
  • Leonardo da Vinci: It seems so odd that we still talk about many of da Vinci’s ideas and innovations so long after the fact. He seemed to have a knack of seeing the new in every situation.
  • Lao Tzu: I am neither sure that ‘Lao Tzu’ was a real person, not what he would add exactly, but I am sure the conversation would be better for it.
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein: Unlike those who spend their whole life justifying their position, Wittgenstein seemed to continually start again. I think that the willingness to not hold tightly offers a lot.
  • Hernán Cortés: Although I do not agree with anything that he did, I do think that anyone who is committed enough to burn his own boat certainly adds a different perspective.

Having thought about the real life influences on my thinking before, this was a different sort of task. I think that looking back over it, I feel it says so much about me and my thinking. Each of the people in their own way challenging conventions and breaking the mould. However, it also highlights many of many of my biases and prejudices. For one thing, whether intentional or incidental, many of the thinkers are male Europeans. Maybe this says a lot about my own background, I am not sure. I also feel that even though the different people represent various fields of work, they all seem a little bit similar, too familiar.

I wonder if such an activity is better suited within a context, a point that Barrett was trying to push towards in suggesting a ‘classroom’ creative council. For example, at Google Teacher’s Academy last year, it was often asked, “What would say or do Sergey Brin?” While maybe this might add a little more impetus to house systems, with those figureheads being seen more as a name. Allowing such questions as: “What would Fred Hollows think?” or “What would Caroline Chisholm have done?”

I also think that maybe the concept of a creative council is best thought of as an ever present growing organism with people coming and going. In his response, Bjorn Paige suggests that his PLN is his ‘creative council’.

For the times I need advice, consolation, or just an ear to hear, a constellation of educators fill my night sky, always pointing true north.

What about you? Who are those people, past and present, that you go to in your thinking? How do they push you deeper? What values do they espouse? Are there any biases? How do you challenge them? I know I have some work to do, more recruitment needed to be done. As always, feel free to share below.


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A Guide to Following Blogs


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One of the challenges with blogs is how to follow. Although you could simply ‘check in’ regularly, this is not only frustrating, but also a little tedious. Another way is to follow via links post through social media and other outlets. This is ok, but dependent on publishers sharing, which is not always the case. Here then are some other alternatives for how to follow a blog:

  • Email Subscription: The most obvious way to sign up for a blog is to subscribe by email. Platforms provide a means to add what is called a ‘subscription widget’. This is an add-on which allows visitors to enter their email address and subscribe to notifications via email.
  • Following: In addition to subscribing, most blogging platforms have the built-in ability to follow. This means blogs are posted to a central feed found on the dashboard and depends on having an account. Although you can easily follow multiple blogs this way, this method still has the problem of you having to check-in to find out and is not much different to simply checking the blog itself. It is also restricted to the platform in question.
  • RSS Reader: Another alternative following a blog (or multiple blogs) is using an RSS reader. RSS stands for ‘Rich Site Summary’ and is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Most websites have an RSS feed. You know if you have found a feed when the link ends with XML. Although many email applications have RSS readers built in, they can be a little clunky. An alternative is Feedly, an application which allows you sort all your feeds and information in one place, although there are many others out there.
  • If This Then That: IFTTT is an application which allows you to create recipes connected with different applications and websites. It allows you to easily automate a lot of processes. For example, by using the application on your mobile, you can set a recipe to automatically save your photographs to Dropbox or Google Drive. Using IFTTT, you can create a recipe where if there is a new post associated with a particular RSS then it will send you an email.

Like so many things online, there are no simple solutions, what is important is finding the method that works best for you.


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Caring – A Practical Guide


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So the #Rhizo15 challenge has been set, build a learning artefact for the practical rhizomatic guide. What to make of it? I initially wondered about a Thinglink with a whole heap fork-able fun. However, I then thought instead of sending people elsewhere to something to make their own, I would create an artefact that itself can be modified and adjusted in order to suit. Inspired by Dave Cormier’s post from earlier in the year reflecting on the importance of caring, I decided to start a ‘Guide to Caring’. Not caring in the sense of how do I look after someone, but more how we might create the conditions, a community, a culture, that allow others to care. To adapt the resource for your own, go to the following link and make a copy.


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#makeschoolsdifferent


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I have seen Scott McLeod’s #makeschoolsdifferent meme gradually spread over the last few months. It has been interesting reading the different ideas that people suggest. Even though I had been challenged, I didn’t feel the need to respond. When Steve Brophy tagged me in his contribution, my interest was piqued. However, it was the crude response from Greg Ashman and Tom Bennett on Twitter which really got me thinking. I don’t mind being wrong or having debate about education, but I cannot stand when people kill a discussion before it has even started.

So, stirred into action, here is my contribution:

  • Homework is the answer to getting stuff done. Everyone has some piece of writing that influences them and leaves a mark. For me it was a piece written by Michael Carr-Gregg on educating boys. In it he makes a few points, but the point that stuck was that we should give less homework. Too often homework is decided by hours, rather than purpose. In addition to this, some feel that if they are not giving homework then they are not doing their job. There is little evidence that homework is at all helpful, especially in primary school. I think that if we are to have homework, it should be creative and passion based, rather than menial repetitive tasks.
  • Arbituary word counts and set structures help students become better writing. I have yet to meet anyone who writes blogs using TEEL. When I write, I focus on why, rather than how I am going about it. I will never forget the lesson that Dr. John Wiltshire taught me in University. Worried about whether I was including the write stuff in the essay, he explained that the word essay derives from French in which it means ‘your say’. This has stuck with me. In addition to this, I think that it is important to celebrate the process, just as much as the product. Literacy is something that we continually do, not something done and dusted.
  • Getting students to monotonously make their thinking visible turns them into better readers. How many adults do you know who use sticky notes or write endless notes in the books that they read? Those who come to mind are often either studying or reading with a particular purpose in mind. I am the first to encourage following up with narratives in the margin, but when this is forced, we risk turning the process into some sort of scientific surgery. Daniel Pennac touches on some of these issues in his book, The Rights of the Reader.
  • Standardised tests provide meaningful feedback. I am not sure you will find anyone who will argue with you that feedback needs to be targeted, specific and timely. How then can there be any good achieved by providing students with feedback six months after the fact. In addition to that, how useful is it? I am with Jason Borton here in saying that tests like NAPLAN provide trend data at best. While if we are to believe Robert Randall, as he stated in The Age, that NAPLAN should be treated being just like any other day, the question remains why one random day is then broadcast on a website as a barometre for how schools are going. A point made by Adam Lavers on Episode 30 of 2 Regular Teachers.
  • Presentation evenings and school newsletters constitute a dialogue. I left #GTASYD last year with the challenge: How might we engage parents in a cultural shift to make relationships and connections the focus of learning? From all my immersion work, I found that the story that came through was that parents were often told, but never actually engaged with. Instead of blaming parents for not turning up or getting involved, we need to make it irresistibly engaging for them to. A large part of this is encapsulated in what David Price calls ‘SOFT‘, that is a culture of sharing, openness, being free and trusting. If education is to truly change then parents need to be at the heart of.

When I think about each of these changes, they are based on my own experiences. I am not saying that this is the same for each school in every context. If you have something to add, a suggestion about how such changes could happen or a point of criticism and concern, then I would love to know. For one thing must never be forgotten, it takes a village.

I challenge Jon Andrews (@jca_1975), Eric Jensen (@jentzly), Riss Leung (@rissl), Ross Halliday (@FizzicalEd) and Bec Spink (@becspink)


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The Impact of My Teachers


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

With Rhizo15 in full swing, I have been reflecting a lot about my own education and the place of the teachers in my growth and development. By focusing on subjectives and the myth of content, people and interaction seem to be all that remain? By chance, George Couros put out the question as to who are the teachers who impacted you? So with my fractured memories, here is a broken list of teachers whose acts still have an impact on me:

  • Mrs Duncan – Bringing her guitar in and playing music on Fridays. Didn’t last too long, as not many liked Crocodile Rock. (Did she play anything else, can’t remember.) However, it planted a seed, not for the music of Elton John, but for music in general.
  • Mr. Cowell – Demonstrating that teachers truly can have a life outside of education and have a sense of humour at the same time. Although I think much of it was lost on us at the time.
  • Mr. Fitzgerald – Believing in his subject so much that he came and spruiked it to every class. I didn’t sign up, but I still remember his passion.
  • Ms. Skiadopoulos – Loving books so much, even if we didn’t. Had no idea who Jane Austen was when I started High School, but was grateful for the seed that led me doing a whole semester of Austen at university.
  • Mr Harris – Demonstrating that you don’t have to love something to teach it. He used U2’s Zoo TV Concert to unpack performance in music. When challenged about the band, said he actually didn’t like them, but that it fitted the task.
  • Mr. Trsek – Providing support and advice above and beyond. When unsure about what I should do, he helped guide my selections.
  • Craig Horton – Doing the little things to support the transition from secondary school to university. I still have his A-Z Guide somewhere. In those first few months, it was a my survival guide.
  • Sue Martin, John Wiltshire (and the whole English faculty at Latrobe, really) – Always willing to discuss my plethora of questions beyond class. Even if in hindsight my ideas seemed a little naive and often ill-thought out.
  • John Whitehorse – Approaching the teaching of History with such openness and enthusiasm. The honest insight which he provided went beyond anything else that was provided in my Diploma of Education.

When I look back over these people and what they did for me, the one thing that stands out is that they helped me care. Maybe it was patience, a little persistence, their honesty, strength of relationship, that they cared? Not sure how this fits with appreciation focused on platforms Linkedin or how it can be measured. What matters though is that they had an impact on the learner that I am today. So, what about you? Who had an impact on you?


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An Introduction to Google Apps for Education


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Google Apps for Education is a cloud computing package. It provides access to products powered by Google but administered by your organization. Doing so, the school accepts responsibility of how the services are used by their end-users, as well as for the data stored. By providing organisations with control, schools are given the power to easily create and manage both staff and student accounts.

In many respects, Google Apps replicates the basic functionalities of Microsoft Office. The difference though is that it allows collaboration and sharing at the click of a button anywhere, any time.

Examples of the activities in which you can use Google Apps:

  • Planning & Organisation: Unlike having a document on a projector with everyone watching on, Google Apps provides a means for everyone to work together in real-time.
  • Data Collection: Although Google Sheets does not have all of the intricacies of Google Sheets, it allows for quite a bit. From gathering test results to collecting data, there are many different possibilities for sharing and sorting.
  • Goals and Portfolios: Using Google allows students and teachers to collaborate in regards to supporting goals and maintaining a digital portfolio of work.
  • Feedback: Whether it be adding a comment, filling out an exit ticket or completing pre-test, Google Apps provides many ways to gain and give feedback.
  • Templates: Although most simply make copies of files, Google Apps also allows you to create templates that the whole organisation can then access.

Many of the queries and questions about Google Apps relate to the internet and ease of access. However, these concerns can be overcome by setting up offline access by downloading the Google Drive application and opening documents through Chrome. Although you are unable to work collaboratively with them, you are also able to edit Microsoft documents. Lastly, like Global2, Google Apps provides different possibilities for adjusting access to different groups within the organisation. This can all be done through the Admin Console.

Further Reading

Google Apps for Education: Common Questions – A great collection of responses to everything from advertisements and COPPA to security and filtering.

Education on Air Online Conference – Although not directly related to GAFE, this collection of online presentations is a great place to go when looking for more learning opportunities.

Maybe You Should Go Drive by Chris Betcher – An introduction to Google Drive in a step-by-step format. One of many presentations found at Betcher’s Summit Stuff.

Introduction to Google Drive 2014 by John Pearce – A collection of videos unpacking the four core applications that make up Google Apps: Docs, Slides, Sheets and Forms.

Why schools are going Ga-Ga for Google and Transformed learning with Google Apps for Education by Anthony Speranza – Two posts outlining some of the benefits, including some of the potentials for transforming the way students learn in and out of the classroom.

Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider? by Jenny Luca – For those concerned about moving to the cloud, this post addresses many of the questions and concerns.

Going GAFE from Scratch, My Thoughts and In Search of One Tool to Rule Them All by me – Here a couple of more detailed reflections on GAFE and how to go about introducing it.


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Innovation, Context and Language – A Reflection on #IOIWeekend


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Last Friday night I attended the IOI Weekend Taster event providing highlighting the IOI Process. It was a great night, these are some of my thoughts and summaries …   

Teachers pose so many questions each day, the problem though is that many of the questions are often limited. They are responses to the here and now, to what is already known. How often do we ask the deep questions? Those that lead us into the unknown. Those beginning with ‘What If’ or ‘How Might We?’

One reason often provided is that of time. There just isn’t any space in the day to delve into such questions. However, as Godin points out,

“I didn’t have time”, this actually means, “it wasn’t important enough.” It wasn’t a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.

The challenge then is how do we make such conversations important enough.

Another issue is how to go about unpacking such questions. Frustratingly, such conversations seem to quickly lead to discussion about what is and isn’t possible, with little reference to evidence or understanding about context. On the contrary, IOI Process provides a structure to not only understand the intricacies of context, but help map out a path to change and innovation.

The IOI Process is built around three tools:

  • Modern Learning Canvas (PDF): Influenced by the Business Model Canvas, the Modern Learning Canvas is split into nine sections: learner’s role, strategies, enablers, practice, culture, policies, educator’s role, learning outcomes and pedagogical beliefs. Each section adds to the perspective. What is different to other tools and models is that the canvas is pictured from the learner’s point of view.
  • Pedagogical Quality Framework (PDF): Like the Canvas, the Pedagogical Quality Framework is broken into four sections: teachers role, teacher role, student needs and compelling opportunities.  By combining these together, it provides a means for creating a definition of pedagogical quality and an innovation thesis. That is, the biggest opportunity for growth and improvement.
  • Learner Development Profile (PDF): Based on Nikolai Veresov’s General model of genetic research methodology, the profile tool is made up of four sections: characteristics, motivations, sources and results. Just like the canvas, the profile focuses on the learner, rather than simply applying some predefined topic or progression.

What is interesting about the three tools is that in many respects they are yours to make of them what you will. Whether it be laying the groundwork for what may need to change or a means for creating a vision of learning and teaching to work towards. Each of the tools provides a common ground to come back to again and again. Providing a means for identifying the intricacies of learnings and areas for further improvement.

At the end of the day though, the success of IOI Process is language. Each of the tools, the sections, the guiding questions, they help to frame the conversation. It provides a clear picture of learning and teaching as it is or could be. Often such conversations get lost in semantics about what is meant by learning. A point Will Richardson made clear in a recent post. By framing the discussion, maybe we can get closer to talking about what is and what innovation is possible in the future. The rest is up to us.


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Introduction to Blogging with Global2


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The term blog derives from ‘web log’ and was initially coined to describe “discrete entries (posts) typically displayed in reverse chronological order.” This though has changed over time. Now it incorporates a range of different methods for creating and communicating. Sometimes it is organised inside a bigger system, but more often than not it is standalone.  There are many different platforms out there, each having their benefits and negatives. What does not change is the focus presenting mixed media, including video, text, images and audio.

Global2 is a blogging community provided by the Victorian State Government to Catholic and State schools. It is the largest Edublogs campus in the world. Providing the functionality of WordPress, plus the added benefits of moderation, content filtering, class management and network administration.

Examples of the blogging activities in which you can use Global2:

  • Individual – Whether it be for personal learning reflections or as a portfolio for finished work, blogs offer students a great place to share a personal story with a wider audience. It also offers a means for providing visible comments and feedback.
  • Class – In addition to telling their own story, blogs provide a means for a whole class to actively engage in their learning by telling a shared story. Elaborating on the idea of documentation, sharing the load not only makes it more feasible (for you only need one device), but also provides for different perspectives.
  • Project – whether it is a passion project or particular topic being studied in class, a blog is a great place for an individual or a group to share everything. Whether it be resources, reflections or the final product, it can be a great way to keep track of everything.
  • Static Website – Often when we think of blogs we conjure up ideas of posts and the need for constant updates. However, a blog can also be more static and simply used to present information and resources.

At their heart, blogs enable students to showcase their learning to a wider more authentic audience. For some this can seem daunting, however it needs to be noted that there are means for managing this, whether it be making the site password protected or simply monitoring comments. What is important is that Global2 is easy and efficient. For although there are many walled gardens, like Edmodo, where we can present information, the need to complete three different steps before getting to the final destination can put many people off.

Further Reading

Global2 – A collection of resources associated with Global2. The first place to go.

Your Global2 Blog by John Pearce – A presentation unpacking everything from tags to widgets. A good run through of all the different things to consider.

The Edublogger – A community blog sharing everything associated with Edublogs, whether it be blogging with students or simply the latest updates and changes.

The Edublogs User Guide – As Global2 is a part of the Edublogs community, this user guide can be useful when trying to figure out some of the different intricacies.

Blogs in Plain English by Common Craft – A video for people who wonder why blogs are such a big deal.

10 Ways To Use Edublogs To Teach – A video unpack some more possibilities to consider when it comes to blogs.

3 Things You Should Know About Blogging by Steve Wheeler – A video exploring some crucial ideas around blogging.


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Feedback, Content and People


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I have not participated in #Rhizo15 as much as I would have liked to. However, I have definitely dwelled on the various topics. Although a little belated, this is something of a response to Dave Cormier’s wondering about the myth of content.


As a part of the roll out of my school’s instructional model. We all chose a topic which we would like to delve into next. I chose to focus on ‘feedback’. Partly because I have a real passion for sharing learning and see a lot of potential for using technology to listen to voices in and out of the classroom. I also really like working with the people who were leading the group.

Although I already had collected some articles and posts on the topic in the past, I thought that I would put it out to my PLN to see what they might have to offer. So I sent the following Tweet:

What follows is the collection of posts, links and resources I got in return:

Is the Feedback You’re Giving Students Helping or Hindering?

Jon Andrews directed me to this post from Dylan Wiliam discussing the importance of feedback and how it is connected with persistence and the growth mindset. It discusses how some feedback can actually be unhelpful in regards to improving.

Feedback on Learning

In addition to Dylan Wiliam’s website, Jon Andrews also shared a link to a short video from Wiliam on importance of giving learners effective feedback as an integral component of formative assessment.

Feedback and Mindset

Dan Haesler directed me to his resources from all his presentations. This includes some really good information on the connection between assessment, feedback and mindset.

Webinar unpacking Embedding Formative Assessment

Jason Borton and Ross Halliday both recommended Dylan Wiliam’s book Embedding Formative Assessment. While Borton also directed me to this video/webinar, where Wiliam explores some practical techniques that teachers can use to develop their formative assessment classroom practice.

Using Gallery Walks for Revision and Reflection

Michelle Hostrup recommended BIE’s work in regards to gallery walks as a model for peer feedback. It provides suggestions how to structure such activities to make them specific and meaningful.

Feedback Matters

Shaun Allison shared a post he wrote collecting together an array of quotes and strategies associated with feedback. The best part is that he provides actual images and examples for each of the strategies that he discusses.

Feedback: Medals and Missions

Jennifer English pointed me to post from Geoff Petty who focuses on the ideas of ‘medals and missions’. Petty supports his discussion with plenty of proformas and research to further unpack the various ideas and arguments.

Formative Assessment

Cameron Paterson linked me to the slides for a presentation he did on formative assessment. Not only does he provide a really clear narrative in regards to assessment, but it also includes a great array of links and quotes. One of the interesting ideas is the potential of students and teachers engaging in the practise of Reggio inspired documentation.

Feedback for Learning (ASCD Vol 70 Num 1)

Peter DeWitt recommended a collection of articles on feedback from ASCD. This includes pieces from Dylan Wiliam to John Hattie to Grant Wiggins. It is also has a great infographic on the seven things to remember about feedback. A great summary of Wiggins’ piece. Although some articles need to be purchased, there are a few that are free.

Austin’s Butterfly

Andrea Stringer shared a short video from Ron Berger which highlights the importance of critique and feedback when striving for excellence. This is one of those presentations that really captures anyone of any age.

Visible Learning

Riss Leung argued that you can’t go past the chapter in John Hattie’s Visible Learning for  unpacking both the research and how it can be applied in the classroom.

3 Variables That Profoundly Affect the Way We Respond to Feedback

Although not responding to my call-out, Tom Barrett shared a link to this video from Big Think in his post written at much the same time. According to Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, the co-authors of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, there are specific variables that distort the way we perceive feedback from others.


Having collected some people’s thoughts on feedback, it makes clear that content is actually people, as Cormier put it in his post. What is important isn’t that I find that one resource that satisfies what I already know and am looking for. Instead, as Cormier highlights,

What is important is that you come to know enough of the stories of a particular field in order to be able to function in that field.

With the discussion of people, stories and resources, I am again reminded of Dean Shareski’s adage about when we go to conferences,

If you leave with one or two people you can continue to learn with you’ve done well.

Too often we focus on collecting ideas and resources, as a stagnant process. Instead what we need to celebrate is the remixing and re-imagining ideas in new and innovative ways. As David Culberhouse describes in relation to the ideapreneur, a term coined by Peter Thiel in Zero to One,

The work of the ideapreneur is not always founded in the making, but often in the connecting of ideas and thinking that already exists in very new and novel ways.  Ideapreneurs are able to make connections that remix and reimagine our current world in very inventive and innovative ways.

If you have something to add, maybe a new idea or a different take on things. Comments are welcome as always.


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