Disciplined Collaboration: Allowing Freedom Within Form (Finding Common Ground)

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This post was originally posted on Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground blog on the 17th of May.

In a recent post, Peter DeWitt reflected on why faculty meetings can often be a waste of time. He provided three reasons:

  • The information could have been provided through an email
  • Staff not involved in constructing the meeting
  • A lack of a focus on learning.

In conclusion, he described how when he was principal he came to the realisation that what was needed was to “co-construct meetings together and focus on learning.” This focus on learning reminded me of a comment from Viviane Robinson’s book Student-Centered Leadership that, “the more leaders focus their relationships, their work, and their learning on the core business of teacher and learning, the greater will be their influence on student outcomes.”

My school has made a significant change this year in regards this, with a focus on co-constructing meetings and learning through the introduction of Disciplined Collaboration.Led by the work of Professor Alma Harris and Dr. Michelle Jones, Disciplined Collaboration in Professional Learning(DCPL) is a model for empowering teachers to own the process of learning.

Many educational initiatives often start out with a clear set of practises in mind. Disciplined Collaboration instead provides a structure for staff to enquire into student learning through the analysis of data, diagnosing teaching and learning issues that students actually face, working collaboratively to build teacher efficacy and then returning to data to measure the impact.

The model is best understood by considering it as three clear stages: collaboration, innovationand impact. Overall, it is designed with the dual role of improving student outcomes and moving professional learning away from the mere acquisition of knowledge and skills, to a more active role of construction and co-construction of professional knowledge.

One of the challenges associated with Disciplined Collaboration is creating the right conditions to support collective inquiry in order to determine success. A part of this is having a clear theory of action, providing staff with the appropriate skills to support collaborative learning, as well as fostering a culture of trust in which accountability for impact is shared. This is all connected with the notion of distributive leadership and the mobilisation of expertise across the board. According to Harris and Jones, the place of formal leadership is to provide meaningful opportunities for informal leadership to prosper.

There are many similarities to other models, such as Professional Learning Communities andCommunities of Practise. However, Harris states, “it does not matter what you call it, what matters is that the collaboration is ‘disciplined’.” If we truly want to make change then we need to be disciplined.

A New Way of Collaborating

Previously, the focus had been on developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum, where students had the opportunity to learn and the time to do it. However, it was found that within this map there was not necessarily enough differentiation in what was being taught. One of the reasons for this is that curriculum and content was set during one day long planning session and then elaborated on throughout the term. The issue was that this presumed that, as teachers, we know what bait fish will be biting in ten weeks time, which is not always the case. So the focus was turned to working in teams to clearly identify both the needs of the cohort, as well as the particular needs of the class.

For example, starting with Fontas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, the group I am a part of enquired into the results and it was identified that a particular area of need was fluency. So to start with, teachers built focused content knowledge around fluency. It was identified that there are characteristics associated with reading fluency, something that had largely been overlooked up unto that point. With this new knowledge, the challenge then was to take this into the classroom. So a check-list was developed to ascertain where the specific problem lay and go deeper in regards to supporting student growth. Instead of supporting students with every aspect, teachers are then able to pull out particular groups of students for more focused attention.

This change has not meant moving away from the guaranteed and viable curriculum, but to make sure that what is being taught is at the point of need. So although the focus may still be on poetry, this focus was made specific to needs of the students in class. In addition to this, Disciplined Collaboration brings with it an increase in teacher capacity and deeper knowledge of learning taken back into the classroom.

In the End

Clearly, this is a new approach and has a long way to go to being fully unpacked and implemented. However, there are already some discernible changes, in particular, the professional conversations amongst staff, a focus on learning during meeting times and the trust from leadership. Whereas meetings in the past were facilitated by curriculum leaders, teams are now left to enquire themselves, with leaders touching base to check if any support is needed, if not they move onto the next group.

I think that it is important to remember, no one tries to be a poor teacher. A point George Couros made recently. The question then is what disciplined structures are in place to support and empower every teacher to grow professionally? Surely working collaboratively is at the heart of this.

For those interested, here are some additional resources for getting started:

Evidence Based Learning Cycle (Big and Small Media): A great collection of links and resources

Disciplined Collaboration in Professional Learning: An AITSL site dedicated to the project, with a great introduction to the model.

Adapted from the work of Harris and Jones with AITSL. Used with permission from St. Pauls School.

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Genius Hour, My Genius Hour

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There is nothing that bugs me more than the idea of ‘ICT’ as a subject. I understand the point of computer science. However, much of the time, ICT is created as the place for students to learn about technology. The problem is, we should not learn the technology, rather we should focus on what opportunities technology affords. Here I am reminded of George Couros’ remark that, “Technology should be at the point of instruction and be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event.” I therefore decided to introduce Genius Hour in my ICT class to make the focus neither technology or content, but learning. My question was, how might we empower students to guide their own learning in order to explore the potentials of technology. In part, I was inspired by Dave Cormier’s discussion of learning’s first principle. After much reflection, Cormier came to the conclusion that learning comes down to a question of care. “When you ask the ‘care->don’t care’ question first all the time, it seems to have some interesting impacts on a discussion.” I wondered then whether giving students choice over what they learnt would result in a deeper focus on how and why we learn.

Only a few students had ever heard of Genius Hour or any of the other names it is known by, such as Passion Projects or 20% Time. No one though had ever completed such an assignment. I therefore started by showing Kevin Brookhouser’s video and got students to brainstorm what they thought.

Some of the suggestions were: an hour where geniuses think, making something that inspires you, a focus on what you want, about process not just product and an idea started with a question. Although I could have and maybe should have left it at this, I then showed Chris Kesler’s introduction to Genius Hour:

After reviewing their initial thoughts, we brainstormed questions they might be interested in and share with the rest of the class. Having planted the seed, I then outlined my expectations for the project. I adapted Anthony Speranza’s 10 principles of Genius Hour:

10 Principles of Genius Hour.

I however removed the last principle as this was the only thing that we were doing in ICT. One of the things that really confused them was asking questions that were ‘larger than Google‘, I think for some they felt Google could give them any answer. To somewhat clarify this and to explain the depth associated with the project, I used the planning templates I got from Eleni Kyritsis. To support this, we discussed impact using a graphic created by Speranza.


Often students will claim to be ‘done’ or ‘finished’ with a project or assignment. However, when they reflect on their work from the point of view of impact they have not ventured far from the centre. Although coming at this problem from the perspective of SAMR, Alan November points out that there are times when we redefine the classroom, only to discover that it was far from transformational. This is something that Speranza touched upon in his application video for GTASYD15:

In addition to the planning document, students were required to create a ‘How Might We’ question to guide them. This is something that I learnt while working with No Tosh at Google Teachers Academy last year. Why HMW is so important, Warren Berger explains, is that it “ensures that would-be innovators are asking the right questions and using the best wording.” To support this process of planning and questioning, I allowed students to browse through some of the past and present projects Speranza has shared from his school. All along I reiterated that I would be assessing how they work, whether it be the detail of their reflections or how collaborative they were, not their actual product.

I envisaged that once students were hooked into learning that they would be off. I could provide support and feedback where required, but they would manage things themselves. However, what became evident was that some student just weren’t hooked.

Although there were some who knew exactly what they wanted to do, whether it be exploring different techniques for drawing or creating a game, there were others who took a little more work. Some were caught on the whole googleable vs. non-googleable argument, while others just didn’t know what their passion was. In addition to this, I was chasing up permission forms, setting up Global2 blogs and organising Google Apps accounts. This meant that where I’d thought that I would meet with each group weekly, I was left to touch base more sporadically.

In regards to the presentations, students shared what they had done, while the rest of the class provided feedback about what they thought could be improved through a Google Form. After that, both of my classes reflected on my Genius Hour Project, which as I explained to them, was Genius Hour. Some of the suggestions that they had for next time was:

  • Clarify Confusion: Although I provided explanation at the start, I really needed to do more in regards to non-Googleable questions, because as one students explained, “every question is googleable”
  • More Structure: Although I provided an assessment rubric, as well as a planning sheet in which to maintain ongoing reflections, I really need to place more emphasis on this. Whether it be doing more gallery walks or sharing reflections through a Google Doc, I need to add more structure to the process.
  • Provide Authentic Examples: Although I provided students with a link to various examples, I did not actually show students any real products which showed what was possible. For example, Bill Ferriter recently reflected on his students blog focusing on the impact of sugar. It is a great example of an authentic product made by students.
  • Pairs Only: With the focus being on the idea, I gave students the option of working with whoever they wanted in groups of all sizes. I simply asked them to justify why they chose what they did. The feedback I got was that groups should be limited to two only, as some slacked off, and maybe the focus needs to be working with different people.
  • Allow Fall Back Options: Even though the purpose was to allow students to follow their passions, for some this was just too much. The suggestion was made that there be some fall back options for those who are unsure.

It is interesting looking back at my first iteration of Genius Hour. A part of me is wary of Audrey Watters’ warning that fiddling with just an hour misses the need to re-evaluate 100% of time in order to make school more student-centred. However, such ‘re-evaluation’ and revolution comes in time, one change at a time. To bring the learners up too quick risks a case of the bends. Will Richardson talks about making things different 10% at a time. Although not the answer, I think that Genius Hour is still a movement in the right direction.

For a great introduction into Genius Hour, I recommend Anthony Speranza’s 2015 Edu On Air presentation. So what are you doing to make learning more student-centred?

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Did someone say … SAMR?

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SAMR is an acronym standing for substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition. It is a model for looking at the integration of technology into education. It is often used to support staff with how to make better use of technology within the classroom. Devised by Ruben R. Puentedura, the premise behind it is that each layer provides a deeper level of engagement and involvement with technology. Starting with a mirroring of what is happening outside of technology, it then progresses to opportunities that are afforded only through the use of technology.

Susan Oxnevad has created a wonderful interaction visual guide using Thinglink. Not only does it provide further clarification, but also a range of examples focusing on the skills of research, writing and digital citizenship.

The SAMR Ladder Through the Lens of 21st Century Skills by Susan Oxnevad

While in an attempt to make sense of the model in his own way, Jonathon Brubaker uses the analogy of ordering a coffee from a cafe to explain the different layers.

SAMR: Model, Metaphor, Mistakes by Jonathan Brubaker

In his own effort to make sense of the layers, Richard Wells redefined the steps as:

  • students support with instruction about technology
  • all students capable
  • multiple approaches to using technology
  • returned control to learning

What is significant about Wells’ revision is the focus on teacher/learner mindset, as much as the task at hand. He also provides some good questions to how guide reflection on technology.

SAMR Success is not about the Tech by Richard Wells

Continuing on a similar vein, Jackie Gerstein reframes SAMR in regards to the move from pedagogy to heutagogy. She marries the different layers with her case for Education 1.0, Education 2.0 and Education 3.0.


SAMR as a Framework for Moving Towards Education 3.0 by Jackie Gerstein

Providing a more creative perspective on SAMR, Amy Burvall renames these steps as:

  • same same
  • not so lame
  • reframe
  • changing the game

Using rhythmical rhyme, she creates what Oliver Sacks calls an ‘earworm’.

In regards to examples, Anthony Speranza wrote a post exploring the different uses of Google Apps for Education. In it he unpacks the possibilities of applications like Google Sites and Blogger using SAMR as a guide. He explains how applications can be used as a means for everything from recording personal writing to transforming the classroom by connecting and collaborating with other students from around the world.

Considering SAMR from the perspective of iPads in a secondary environment, Richard Wells provides some examples of ways in which technology use changes at the different levels, from simply using it to generate digital tests to making a series of videos on a topic.

If you search on the web you will find a lot more great examples of how SAMR is being used to describe technological change. However, there is also been much discussion about some of the merit of SAMR as a model. Here are a few of the different issues raised:

  • OBSTRUCTION: Alice Keeler talks about the dangers of pushing technology for the sack of it, where instead of redefining learning, it becomes a frustrating obstruction. In addition to this, the focus becomes what rather than why. Ewan McIntosh touches on this, in his book How To Come Up with Great Ideas, when he gives the scenario of investing in old technology to fill the desire for a one-to-one laptop program. In the long run, such a ‘grey compromise’ can actually set back similar innovations.
  • TASK NOT TEACHER: Catlin Tucker suggests that a focus on tasks overlooks the holistic nature of technology integration. Tucker proposes her own model focusing on teacher development. Starting with getting connected, then incorporating technology within instruction, after that using it to engage students in learning. The final challenge is to skilfully use technology inside and outside of the classroom to enable learning. Mark Samberg continues in much the same vein pointing out that there is little detail of instruction, instead technology is described as the transformational solution.
  • CONTEXT: Mark Anderson explains that SAMR is not a ladder. Being so makes it an exclusive club that is measured by those best apt at utilising different programs and applications. Instead, technology integration needs to be seen as a part of a wider context. Talking about the same concerns in regards to context, Steve Wheeler argues that the opportunities afforded by technology are often missed when we do not situation learning in real situations. While Alan November contends that even though the learning may be deemed as redefined, it really needs to be transformational.
  • TOO SIMPLE: Darren Draper questions whether the integration of technology is ever obvious. In addition to this, he wonders what the supposed benefits to be gained are? More fun? Improved engagement? Better test scores? According to Draper, teaching at a ‘higher’ level does not guarantee better, merely different.
  • AMBIGUOUS: Chris Hesselbein discusses the confusion associated with augmentation and modification. His solution is a mash-up of Marzano’s four point rubric with Joan Hughes’ RAT Framework. Focusing on only three steps – replacement, amplification and transformation – Hesselbein adds leadership into the mix to achieve Marzano’s four points. The suggestion is that surpassing the transformation phase involves working collaboratively to share and support other teachers on their journey.
  • TRIVIAL: Jonas Linderoth suggests that the ideas put forward through the SAMR model are not only obvious, but nothing new. This is something echoed by Gary Stager in a recent present where he remarked that there has been nothing new in regards to the implementation of technology for the last 30 years. Stager makes the comment that we would do well to go and reread Papert’s 20 Things to Do With a Computer.  In addition to this, Puentedura’s work is based on unsubstantiated research and a doctorate in a completely different field of study (Chemistry).
  • FUNCTION NOT FORM: LeiLani Cauthen argues that the model actually stifles any discussion about new models of school and changing the traditional paradigm. According the Cauthen, we need to redefine function, not form. “Form follows function, and the current educational forms are not aligned to new function.” Coming at the problem from a different perspective of learning spaces, Matt Esterman suggests that instead of designing for the unknown, teachers more often simply want a shiny version of what they already have.

What ever you do with technology, what stands out to me is the importance of starting with why. Although models, such as SAMR and RAT, TPACK, can be useful as a reflective tool or to guide discussions, they do not necessarily guide the pedagogical practise. As Kentora Toyama has suggested, technology “amplifies whatever pedagogical capacity is already there.” This to me is why ideas like the IOI Process may be a better place to start. Although tools like the Modern Learning Canvas may not involve the quick fix simplicity that SAMR and other such models provide, it allows for a more fluid and holistic perspective on learning. Maybe question is, as Steve Brophy has suggested, how do we innovate focussing around the development needs of our students. For me, Miguel Guhlin summed it all up best in his own recent reflection on SAMR:

Go ahead, tear down your SAMR god…whatever you put in its place will serve for a time then be smashed to the ground. Not because the gods are unworthy, but because you invested them with so much of your understanding that when you grew, you failed to see how the model serves as a springboard for thinking, not a locked room that keeps fresh ideas out.

So what are you doing to drive change? How are you thinking? Is there something that you think I may have missed? As always, comments are welcome.

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Who’s Allowed to be Innovative Anyway?

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs 

This weeks topic for #youredustory comes from Steve Brophy with the question being “What is Pedagogical Innovation?” Here is my addition to the conversation. More a question than a clear cut definition …

In a recent conversation about innovation and education reform, the argument was put forward that graduate teachers should not be expected to be ‘moonshot thinkers’. That is, thinkers who are pushing for the supposed impossible. The point was that if everyone had their heads in the clouds dreaming of a completely different answer, who is on the ground working for today. In addition to that, graduates must be allowed a certain amount of time to get their bearings before being asked to be innovative. I was left with the question, who should be innovative and is there an opportunity missed in encouraging graduates from the start? 

When I teach essays in English, I explain to my students that guides and strategies, such as TEEL, are not a rule, but rather a starting point. That instead of memorizing a structure, they needed to understand that all writing is structured for a reason, but ideally they needed to find their own structure associated with their intended purpose. Something that Austin Kleon explains when talking about voice, “The only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you.” I think that innovation is much the same.

I have seen too many graduates been spoon fed in their first few years only to then falter when the additional support disappears. The problem that occurs is that all the focus is placed on the what, with little guidance on the why or the how. My concern is that after their first few years, too many become indoctrinated and believe that the power of change rests with somebody else. Sadly, when I reflect on my experiences, I feel that I spent too many years in other people’s shadows believing that they would drive the change that I saw was needed.

I think that where this change needs to occur is with the whole program of graduate accreditation. In Victoria, graduates are asked to develop a portfolio in order to become provisionally registered. Too often this is seen as a tick box activity where the predominant question asked is what do I need to do, rather than why and how will it benefit me and my students. 

I was lucky enough last year to mentor a music teacher enrolled in an accelerated learning program where he was supported both in and out of school. For his registration process the university required him to complete an action-based research project. Although this seemed somewhat more rigid than the usual accreditation process, from my perspective it was much more meaningful. Instead of capturing an example of learning and teaching as most often do, he focused on assessment and reporting. Across the year I watched his practise move from being teacher centred to allowing students more flexibility as to how they chose to learn. This included a move to make music more hands on, as well as a move to involve more play and experimentation. I felt the true success was that it led me making certain adjustments to my own practise and pedagogy.

I understand that there may be a question of workload and a push to increase teacher retention rates. However, How does spoon feeding graduate teachers help? Couldn’t the extra time and support be used to really kick start pedagogical innovation from the start? Just wondering.

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Half Time

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Inspired by Jon Andrews’ recent post, here is a short story of my own. A meandering on data, leadership and growth.

It was the big day, but something wasn’t right. As Alen came into the huddle at half time, the tone worried him. Even though the team was up by three goals, it was not a fair indication of where the game was at. A couple of quick goals in time on masked what had been a tight match so far. In a low scoring affair, it felt huge – for some. There were players whispering victory. The problem though was that the statistics were against them.

Although they had had more possessions, they were not using it well. Whereas the opposition were more effective. Not only having more tackles, but also being more efficient on the turn around. They had the statistics that counted. This was not the fault of the players, they were just following orders.

What worried Alen the most was that the game had been played on their terms. This involved closing the play down. Stopping the run. Not because that was how they played best, but more because that is not how the opposition liked to play. Known for their high scoring and slick ball use, there was only one game where they had failed to score over 100 points. A wet day when the temperature did not get above 10 degrees. This being said, they had still won by 50 points. History was against them.

Coach was excited. Preaching to the masses, Alen was unsure whether he was aware of the statistics that were stacked against them. Coach was from a different time when expectations got the job done. The problem though is that 15 out of 21 games the opposition had doubled their score in the third quarter. While in half of their games they had reduced the opposition to less than six goals in the second half. They could not be held forever, it just was not feasible to sustain such negative intensity for the whole game. Surely coach was aware, how could he not?

As the sermon wound up, Alen was waiting for the ace that coach was going to pull. Maybe he had done his research? Maybe he had something in his bag?

Alen waited.

As the players split off into their groups, he assumed that maybe the message would be given there, by the assistant coaches. However, as he stood listening all he heard was refinement. Nothing new, just a tightening of the screws. Do this. Stay on him. Stick to the plan. Let’s keep it on our terms.

As the players split from the huddle and jogged back to their positions, Alen questioned whether his thoughts were detrimental to the side. It wasn’t that he was trying to subconsciously undermine the team. He had always been a loyal servant who did what was asked of him, but maybe that was why he wasn’t a part of the leadership team? The problem was that there was a seed of doubt. He wanted to trust coach, but the seemingly naive perspective that he perpetuated left him more questions than answers. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe it was him.

Alen waited.

As the opposition player got into position he prepped himself once more.

The whistle blew, the game continued, it was time to play.

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Adobe Voice – Ideas and Examples

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

Adobe Voice is one of those applications that once you get you head around what it can and can’t do with it, there are so many different possibilities.

Although I have posted about it before, here are some examples of things that I have done using Adobe Voice include:

  • Create a persuasive advertisement
  • Present a historical timeline
  • Record a picture book
  • Collect different examples of figurative language
  • Make a guide to creating an Adobe Voice Presentation
  • Explain thinking
  • Collect reflections
  • Publishing poems

Overall, Adobe Voice provides an engaging means for sharing student voice in a safe means. I have seen many presentations delivered by staff and students. However, I have never seen students want to watch one over and over again, to the point where they actually memorise certain phrases and messages.

In addition to this, Adobe Voice also provides an authentic example of fluency and feedback. With the ease in which you can record, playback and rerecord, it is one of those applications that allows students to achieve mastery often on their own accord.

So what about you, have you used Adobe Voice in your classroom? How could you use it in your class? As always, comments welcome.

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Creative Commons Starts with Making – A Reflection on Creating and Sharing

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

I was reminded again this week about the importance of Creative Commons. Firstly, my students got a bit stuck getting their heads around what was right for use while creating presentations, while secondly, Mark Anderson wrote a post sharing why he worries about teachers blogging. Beyond the initial frustration about the lack of foresight in regards to the wider audience and subsequent poor judgement, Anderson discusses his concern over the use and reference to content. From copying someone else’s image to sharing student images, he provides three suggestions:

  • Use CC Search if you are trying to find appropriate content
  • Reference ideas and content when you are borrowing
  • Always err on the side of caution when sharing student content online

Although each idea is helpful, what is seemingly left out is any discussion of how teachers can go what David Price has described as ‘SOFT‘ by openly giving back and putting back into the community?

I have written about creative commons and where to find content before. However, I have never really unpacked my steps in regards to how I create and share. Basically, unless an image has a Creative Commons license giving permission, permission isn’t given. The challenge then in not only sharing is doing so in a way that others can benefit from. Although I share different content online, here is a summary of my workflow in regards to creating visual quote from the discovery of the idea to publishing it online.


The first step in creating a visual quote is coming upon a quote. More often than not, quotes create themselves and often come from the plethora of blogs I read via Feedly. I also use the annotation tool in Diigo to keep ideas for a later date. In addition to this, I have started reading more books via Kindle as it provides an easy way to keep notes. Tom Barrett describes this act of curation as ‘mining knowledge’, the purpose of which is to create a collection to dig through at a later time. There are many different social bookmarking tools, such as Delicious and Evernote web clipper, the challenge though is finding the right tool and method for you.


In addition to finding a quote, the challenge is to match this with an image. For those like Jackie Gerstein, Dan Haesler, Sylvia Duckworth and Amy Burvall, the answer is to draw from scratch. Although I have experimented a bit with sketchnoting and doodling, I prefer to connect with pre-existing visual images. This search often begins with Flickr. I like the fact that you can trawl images based on licenses. Sometimes I favourite images which I come back to, but more often than not I simply search from scratch. This can be challenging as I often have an idea what sort of image I am after. Lately, I have also started incorporating Lego within my makes to add another layer of meaning. After working with my younger brother, I saw the potential to use Lego to portray anything. I also feel that it is one of those things that, although usually designed for children, is somewhat ageless.


There are so many different applications on the web that make the creation of images quick and easy. However, I still prefer to make from scratch. Although I sometimes use applications like Quozio, Phoster and Canva, I prefer to use Google Draw. Bill Ferriter once explained to me how he uses PowerPoint to create some of his images. After tinkering myself with this idea, I turned to Google Draw, both for its ease of use, but also the ability to share and remix.In regards to themes, I try and stick to set group of fonts:

  • Architects Daughter for thin main body text
  • Paytone One for thick key words or phrases
  • Permanent Marker for the author and title

While inspired by Amy Burvall, I have also taken to using a mixture of bold colours taken from my avatar image, as well as white for the main text. To make sure that the text stands out from the image, I often make the base image behind the image black and then move the transparency slider attached to the image to 50%.  This helps the text to stand out.


There are so many different methods and modes to share these days. The issue though is that unless you explicitly state it, copyright is still held by the creator. Although people may consume such content, they cannot use it in a presentation or modify it. The problem is that, as Doug Belshaw asserts, “remixing, re-appropriation and riffing off other people’s work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings.” With this being the case, it is important to provide some sort of licensing to help people to share openly and freely. The most obvious method seems to be via Flickr.

When you upload to Flickr, it provides the means to easily select a license. If this seems to laborious, you can actually set a default license in settings. Another benefit of Flickr is that when I use images in blog posts I can easily attribute using Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution Helper. An alternative to Flickr though is attributing within the image.

Like artists of old, many people have taken to signing their images as a way of resolving the attribution issue. Taking this a step further, there are those like Gerstein who not only sign their work, but also place a license created via the Creative Commons website within the image to make it as clear as possible. Doing this allows you to avoid having to share through third party sites.

So there you have it, my workflow in creating and publishing visual quotes. What about you? What content do you create? How do you share it? What steps do you take to make sure others can make use of it? As always, comments welcome.


At a recent GAFESummit, I did a Demo Slam where I shared making a quote. In it I demonstrated how I have moved away from using Google Drawings and instead building with Google Slides. One of the reasons for this is that I am able to edit the master slides meaning that I do not have to adjust the fonts and colours each time. I am also able to add a small mark to the bottom of the image as something of an identifier, something someone else actually asked me to do. Beyond this, the process of adding an image, making it transparent on top of a black background and predominantly using white text remains the same.

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What do you think the Education State means?

Education State

I was lucky enough to heara Gail Davidson speak today. She touched on what works in schools. Although we all have our own perspective and work in unique contexts, the ingredients it comes down to, according to Davidson, are: student learning, teaching excellence and supportive environment. For her, these elements are brought about by learning deeply, across subjects and with purpose. All of our resources support this, whether it be the technology in our hands, time allocated for meeting and planning or partnerships with parents and the community. The biggest challenge is not money and time, but fostering a culture of wholeheartedness. A part of this is the power of possible, doing what needs to be done in order to succeed.

This discussion of what works and building effective schools reminded me of a recent question posed about what it means to be the education state? Daniel Andrews made the promise leading up to the recent election to make Victoria the ‘education state’. This even included placing the slogan on number plates. I feel like I have heard this sort of rhetoric before when Ted Ballieu promised to make Victorian teachers the best paid teachers in the country. As a part of his outline, he stated that he “won’t rest until we rebuild schools, rescue TAFEs and make our state the education capital of the country once again.” The question that remains though is what would it really take to make Victoria the education state. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Properly Fund Education: The Gonski Review outlined some drastic needs for education, particularly around equity. The former Liberal government took away Education Maintenance Allowance to fund their contribution in regards to Gonski, with the belief that Gonski would fill that gap. However, what has happened is that schools have lost out on EMA and are yet to see any support via Gonski.
  • Schools for Growth Areas: According to an analysis from the Gratten Review, Victoria will need 550 new schools by 2031. In the latest budget, the government funded 10. If we continue at that rate for the next 15 years then we will build 150 schools. That is 400 short. Even if the Catholic and Independent sectors pick up some of the slack, as it seems the government hopes they will, this is still a big gap. The reality is that there are too many schools bursting at the seems, especially in growth corridors, with fields of portables, struggling to provide the appropriate environment for learning.
  • Maintaining Schools for the Future: Beyond new schools, there are too many in need of maintenance and revitalisation. Let alone any discussion of portables, many old buildings are inadequate and need of refurbishment. In addition to upkeep, there has been a stalemate with funds in regards to such things as cleaning and power. This has forced many schools to think more creatively and cut various programs.
  • Adequately Support Education: It is often suggested that class size has little impact. However, David Zyngier did a study that found smaller class sizes in the early years “can lift children’s academic performance through to year 12 and beyond – especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition to this, education support needs to include kindergarten. This means providing the appropriate funding of all hours to make it an imperative. Making Victoria the education state means supporting schools and students from day dot.
  • Provide Appropriate Support: I understand that every school context is unique, but school autonomy is a cop out. It creates a sense of competition, when what is really needed is culture of collaboration and connection. A part of this is the debacle that is the four regions. The Liberals handed schools responsibility for more menial tasks, but maintained the same funding structure. Yet the Labour solution is to provide more support whether regionally or in town, while cutting costs to already cash strapped schools. This is what Dale Pearce means when he talks about funding at the gate.
  • Vision for Education: One of the biggest disappointments has been the lack of vision from the government in recent years. I am happy to recognise there were many faults with the Ultranet. However, what it offered was a vision. I understand that the government released ‘Unlocking the Potential’, yet what have they really done to support it? On last count, there was only a handful of people in the Digital Learning department, this is a far cry from the halcyon days. I know those days have come and gone, however more needs to be done to empower schools with not only knowledge, but the confidence to take education forward.

So these are some of my thoughts. What about you? What do you think is needed to make Victoria the ‘education state?’ This is a conversation that needs to be had.

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Rewilding Education

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

In a recent episode of Future Tense, Matthew Smith presented a report on the dingo fence that stretches across south-eastern Australia. The fence was developed to keep out dingos out of the fertile part of the Australia. However, researcher Euan Ritchie explained how the desired purpose does not always achieve the intended outcome. For although the fence was designed to help protect sheep flocks, in eliminating one of the environments natural predators, it has led to an over-abundance of wild animals and a subsequent decrease in vegetation. As Ritchie explains,

With dingoes being absent from ecosystems we have more cats, we have more foxes, we have too many kangaroos, we often have feral goats, pigs et cetera, and they all have their own impacts.

In addition to this, the fence – stretching over 5000 kilometres – costs roughly 10 million dollars a year to maintain.

The answer being purposed to improve the state of things is rewilding. Already used in Europe and America, the practise involves reintroducing top-level predators into an ecosystem in order to restore function back to the landscape. One of major concerns comes from farmers who such things as the dingo fence were created for. There have been different strategies and solutions used to quell the impact of predators on livestock. They include: large guardian dogs, such as maremmas, smaller fencing to protect young calves and lamb, as well as reimbursement for lost  stock. What is interesting is that it been argued that due to the decrease in herbivores and increase in vegetation, properties with dingoes are actually better off in a net sense. Scientists are therefore proposing not to simply remove the whole fence, but to move parts of it in order to monitor and manage the change.

This discussion of rewilding got me thinking about education. In a recent post, David Culberhouse discussed overcoming the barriers and pushing past procedures. As he explained,

The problem is that at some point, like with all obstacles or walls that we create, the danger we are trying to keep out finds a way in.

Maybe then what is needed is a rewilding of education. So often structures are put in place to support instruction and schooling. A point Greg Miller touches on in a recent post. Practises that are then measured and maintained through standardised tests. The learning landscape is then left barron with little beauty and a lot less care.

What if we removed the fences, where instead of focusing on managing experiences for students from the top on down, we co-create experiences with students from the bottom up. Supporting students to be what Ewan McIntosh describes as problem finders. This does not mean simply leaving students to their own accord, instead like the guard dogs protecting the flock, support them in the maintenance of their learning portfolios to add discipline to the process. For those learners in need of smaller fences, provide scaffolding in regards to the development of core literacy and numeracy skills, especially in early years. While provide focused assistance to those who need additional guidance to aide their learning.

Some see all of this as a risk of sending the lamb to the slaughter. Condemning students to an education of ‘stuff‘. The problem is that we are doing that now. With the research done, it is often already decided what is important to know and do, rather than placing students in the driving seat of their learning.

Some see things like Genius Hour or 2-hours allocated to inquiry as the solution. However, as Audrey Waters questions,

Don’t we need to think about how to re-evaluate 100% of time in order to make school more student-centered, not simply fiddle with a fraction of it?

This is not to say that this is simple or without risk. Just as the proposal with the dingo fence is to move a small part of it and then reassess, one approach to rewilding education maybe to take small incremental steps. Set a goal, take action and then reassess. Starting with 10%, as Will Richardson has suggested. A useful strategy in support of such change is the IOI Process which provides a series of tools that helps discuss not only where you are at, but a map of where the next step may lie.

Maybe you don’t think that this metaphor works? The strategies are too simple or lack nuance? You don’t think that learning is the top predator? That could be so. However, what is important is to continually reimagine and ask the question, what if? Such ideas may not be right or necessarily work, but they promote more discussions and help build towards a brighter tomorrow.

I will leave last word to Gillian Light who, on reflecting upon the need to lead digitally, summed the situation up nicely:

School doesn’t have to involve students sitting in straight lines listening to an all-knowing teacher. Because learning certainly doesn’t involve that.

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REVIEW: Master Teacher to Master Learner

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

I started reading Will Richardson’s latest book, Master Teacher to Master Learner, with a mixture of apprehension and intrigue. Based on some of his recent posts, I wondered if it was going to be one of those treatises that states how everything is wrong and then outlines all of the answers righting all of life’s ills. I was pleasantly surprised. Although all is not well in the world of education, the change that Richardson offers is not necessarily something that is beyond teachers. In fact, it is quite the opposite. At the heart of the text, Richardson asks the reader, that is teachers, to reflect on our ability to be master learners outside of school and take this mindset into the classroom.

Throughout, the book provides a clear outline for the why, the what and the how to becoming a modern learning. It provides a great introduction to the notion of connected self-determined learning. There is often so much written about being connected and although he touches upon technological side of things, much of his focus is on learning and the qualities associated with this. What is of interest to Richardson is the many possibilities that technology affords for modern learners, whether teachers or students.

A part of a wider series of books exploring solutions for digital learner-centred classrooms, Master Teacher to Master Learner is accessible and really gets to the point. For those foreign to the connected evolution, it offers a guide for where to start. Something I wish I had read when I set out on my own connected journey. While for those already well versed with modern learning, it provides a concise reminder.

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