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

Some people argue that online connections are conducive to echo chambers. As I have discussed elsewhere, influenced in part by David Truss’ great post, I feel that such thinking is about mindset more than anything else. As Truss stated:

A good PLN will pull in learning from places I don’t normally go, and this means that even when good ideas bounce around, perspectives on those ideas don’t stay static

This was clearly demonstrated recently in the debate that arose from George Couros’ tweet:

Provoked, Will Richardson wrote a passionate post wondering if in worrying about feelings we have lost the ability to truly listen and debate. This was then followed by a post from Dean Shareski who suggested that a strength-based approach was a better answer, where instead of giving our attention to what is wrong, we stop and celebrate what is right, reflecting on what works. Although, like Shareski, I see a place for a critique of the system from those compass barers like Will Richardson, Ken Robinson and Seth Godin, I wonder if we highlight those good things enough.

Here then are three schools that are doing innovative things ‘that work’, fixing the system one step at a time:

Wooranna Park Primary School

Located in Melbourne’s south-east, the school has have a vision to develop tomorrow’s entrepreneurs by having students do things such as teaching each other and learning in a range of different settings, from a space craft to a dragon boat. See the great article in The Age and Suzie Boss’ post in Edutopia for more discussion.

St. Paul’s School

Located just to the north of Brisbane, the school has engaging with a wide range of educational voices from around the world to design an education which leaves those students starting school now as ready as they can for when they finish in 2028. This has included implementing disciplined collaboration, a complete overhaul of learning spaces and the incorporation of heutagogical learning.


Templestowe College

Located to the east of Melbourne, the school has turned around from being on the brink of closure by placing students and their learning at the centre. This has involved being flexible in regards to timetables and classes, as well as providing authentic opportunities for learning, such as working in the school’s cafeteria.

This is just a few examples of schools whose innovation is a constant source of inspiration and motivation. For more examples check out AITSL’s Learning Frontiers, as well as Greg Miller’s post celebrating a range of innovative schools in NSW. While, for a more global perspective, check out the responses to Steve Wheeler’s call out on Twitter.

Although I agree that there are elements of education that are not right, I’m not sure a revolution is the fix. As both Couros and Shareski make note of, such discussions often tarnish the great work some are doing. As I have murmured in the past, such ideals are not always ideal. Such ideals only ever put undue pressure on everyone, creating a fixed scenario where we either pass or fail.

Providing his own take on this, Matt Esterman wrote a post last year wondering if we need a renaissance, rather than what he calls a neverlution. He started this discussion with a list posted on Twitter:

Esterman’s point is that rather than bloody warfare where endless people get hurt in the process of change, maybe we can find possible fixes and solution by pushing the current boundaries by more creatively reflecting on the past for inspiration for the future.

Providing another perspective, Jason Markey calls for evolution, that is change for the better. Too often, Markey points out, we see change as being for change’s sake. Instead, evolution is about changing to advance our present state.

I think that there is something to be taken from each of these ideas. For although Richardson’s argument is that we need to be ‘different not better‘, I feel that such schools like St. Paul’s and Wooranna Park are thinking differently, challenging the status quo. Change will not occur through a process of educational cleansing where those staff not up to the challenge are simply excluded. Whether it be Markey’s better or Richardson’s different, we need to work with the ones we have: the parents, the colleagues, the students, the community. To focus on ‘who’ not only misses the point of change, but undermines the why driving it.

Change takes a lot of time and conviction, but it is not always clear about what actually constitutes ‘better’, because of this it is easy to doubt the direction things are moving. This then is why being connected is so important, knowing that you are not alone. Programs, such as Learning Frontiers and the New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning, are so important, for they help foster such connections. It is then schools like Wooranna Park and St. Paul’s that act as beacons helping to guide others. For although there are plenty of compasses out there, mapping such futures is precarious. Sometimes the best we can do is to celebrate the innovations of others and reflect on how such actions might work in our own situation, context and with our why.

If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.

Innovation, Context and Why – A Reflection on Support and Encouragement by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

37 thoughts on “Innovation, Context and Why – A Reflection on Support and Encouragement

    • Thank you Dean for the comment. I was going to comment on your post, but the more I thought about it, the bigger it grew. It is one of those topics which raises more contradictions than solutions. Whether it be evolution or renaissance, feel that there has to be a better word than ‘revolution’ in carrying the story forward. Someone told me that Gary Stager talks about ‘counter narratives’, but I am yet to find a source for this. Think though that the idea of narrative has some potential.

  1. A great post Aaron, and not just because I get a mention.

    You have prompted me to reflect that Renaissance is a better term than revolution. About 6 years ago I went to an informative presentation by Mark Treadwell. Mark made comparison between our current times and the Renaissance of last millennium. One essential difference being that changes which took place then, took place over some 400 years. The changes that are taking place at this time in history will take place within a 40 year time period, exponentially accelerated by the immediate accessibility and extensive connectivity that comes with the world wide web.

    I like the term Renaissance, especially considering Matt Esterman’s terminology which you highlight in this post. Remembering Mark Treadwell’s presentation, and reflecting upon your blog, I wonder if we are in the midst of a ‘Renaissance on Steroids’ or even (more politically correct) a ‘Revolutionary Renaissance’?


    • Thank you so much Greg for the response. It is an interesting topic and I really like the point Mark Treadwell had to make. Esterman’s comparison in his post is with ‘privilage’. The renaissance was funded by the rich. Esterman suggested that with so much access to so many now that it is (or should not be) a privileged thing.

      What I think is interesting about each of the examples that I provided is that each had a vision that was built over time. I would be interested in the schools you mentioned in your post, whether their is a correlation with this. Ironically, with such fast paced change the one essential ingredient maybe stability in regards to leadership.

      • John Goh, principal at Merrylands East Primary in Sydney One of the schools to which my post refer), would argue that for transformative change to occur, it requires stable leadership, possibly for ten plus years and occasionally refers to research when stating this. He has been in his position for 10 years (I think)
        Looking at some other schools…
        Marist Parramatta, Brother Patrick Howlett since 2005.
        Northern Beaches Christian School – Stephen Harris, at least ten years.

  2. Antony Funnell leads an investigation into our pessimistic outlook on the world. Steven Pinker traces our tendency towards the news and negativity back to the Hebrew prophets. Roy Baumeister suggests that our tendency to undervalue the future and celebrate the past is a defence mechanism. Art Markman talks about the dangers of our tendency towards revolution, rather than evolution. This reminds me of an education debate from a few years ago. One of the ideas that closed the podcast was:

    Whether you believe you can or can’t, you’re right.

    I was intrigued by Pinker’s data dashboard, but concerned about the objective truth provided by data. For example, the Grattan Institute recently released a report stating that the prosperity of young people is going backwards. Would this then be a point of focus, but not a dire prediction?

  3. Stephen Bates reflects upon the life and legacy of Sir Ken Robinson. One of the things that I am reminded of in reading the obituary is that his famous TED Talk was far from an overnight success. Instead, it was a culmination of years of experience.

    Understandably, this was much more enticing to the education profession than it was to government ministers, but it was based not on a single speech but Robinson’s whole career in academic education, which culminated in a professorship at Warwick University (1989-2001), before he became a senior adviser to the J Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles.
    Stephen Bates
    In his own reflection, Justin Bathon talks about the way in which Robinson ‘pollinated a shift in paradigm’:

    For me, and I think a great many others, Sir Ken pollinated a shift in paradigm. For the millions who watched his videos, read his books, or listened to speeches, he prepared the soil and created the conditions for us to grow our own new notions of how we might help learning flourish. The task of growing the complex, organic ecosystems in which all children might flourish then is left to us. Happily, Sir Ken, and many others, have helped to pollinate these ideas so widely that a global effort to grow these more organic models of school has inspired models of Creative Schools to bloom all across the planet.
    Justin Bathon
    It is interesting the think about his legacy as a mental reference.

    Alan Thwaites approaches point of view and personality with the question, are you Sir Ken Robinson, Professor Brian Cox or Rupert Murdoch to your students? This question stemmed from the growing tendency of schools to ask such questions during job interviews to learn more about the applicant. In his post, he discusses what each would do in the position of curriculum coordinator. He then closes with the question as to who your students see you as?
    I always felt challenged. However, i was also a little bit sceptical about a call for revolution presented in fifteen minutes.

    Provoked, Will Richardson wrote a passionate post wondering if in worrying about feelings we have lost the ability to truly listen and debate. This was then followed by a post from Dean Shareski who suggested that a strength-based approach was a better answer, where instead of giving our attention to what is wrong, we stop and celebrate what is right, reflecting on what works. Although, like Shareski, I see a place for a critique of the system from those compass barers like Will Richardson, Ken Robinson and Seth Godin, I wonder if we highlight those good things enough.
    I think that the reality is that I have never read any of his books. Maybe I should.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.