Where is the line that determines when “being out of the classroom” makes someone’s work with educators irrelevant? 6 months out? 1 year? 5 years? - Brendan Jones' Tweet

Coming up to three years out of the classroom and not being based in a school, I am often left thinking about what this means for my identify as a teacher. Although I still work within education, my current title of ‘subject matter expert‘ seems a long way from the classroom. This is something that I have been pondering for a while. Here then are some thoughts focused on three questions: legitimacy, context and relevance.

A Question of Legitimacy

A colleague recently put out the request for schools to invite them into their school as the experience of being in the classroom apparently provides ‘legitimacy’. For me, this is always the dilemma with working in a central organisation across a number of schools. Although you may have up-to-date content knowledge, this is not always based on lived experience. As I have contended elsewhere, I am doing ‘real’ work, however the question that remains is whether this work is ‘legitimate’ to be called ‘a teacher’?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘legitimacy’ as “reasonable and acceptable.” Therefore, is the work my colleagues and I do reasonable and acceptable to be called a ‘teacher’? I have heard some use the word ‘transactional’ to derogatorily describe the tasks that we complete. This is based on the observation that many of the processes are seemingly repetitious and methodical. I have lived this label before when I was report report coordinator, timetabler and all-round data guy within a school. The problem I have with this is that simply labelling such actions as transactional is that although the outcome maybe set, there are often variables at play when it comes to the process. This variables demand a sense of perspective and empathy to the lived experience.

A Question of Context

An example of such a transaction is my recent work supporting schools with the loading of literacy data into the central repository. One of my many hats. We had created a guide that walked people through the process. However, as more and more schools made contact it became apparent that there were many assumptions at play. Whether it be user access within the system, expectations based on past habits or working through various data errors, each of these issues needed to be contended with patiently, especially as the problem was not always evident to the user at the other end. Although it is easy to step back now and breakdown some of the difficulties faced, how to improve such transactions in the future is not always clear.

In some ways the recording of data needs to be covered in training. The problem with this though is that currently such workshops are mash together of different focuses and needs. Added to the mix is the reality that every school context is different. In the case of literacy data, for some schools it is the responsibility of someone in administration who enters the results, for others it is the learning and teaching leader, or even the literacy coordinator. This all depends on the school and the outcome desired. However, the training workshops are usually aimed at those working in administration, because they are usually in-charge of ‘transactional’ matters.

In an ideal world, school users would be able to call on their prior knowledge to debug any issues. However, the templated nature of the technology neither allows nor encourages any notion of heutagogy and self-learning. Rather than working things out, people often fall back on guides, only then to scream out in frustration (usually on the phone) when nothing makes sense.

A Question of Relevance

Coming at the question of identify from a different perspective, Brendan Jones reflects on the world of conferences and professional development specialists wondering about the relevance of those outside of the classroom?

I think this is an interesting question. In part, it makes me think about teaching VCE English. I have not taught it for a few years, having worked in a P-9 college for much of my career. However, I feel that I could easily step back into that environment. I assume that there would be changes in the curriculum that I would need to grapple with, but I do not feel that my experience is irrelevant.

In regards to conferences, questioning the relevance of presenters speaks as much to our expectations from such situations. Even if a facilitator is currently practicing within a classroom, they will not be the one to deliver the outcomes within the school so relevancy does not always seem the prime concern. In addition to this, there are some areas where no amount of knowledge and experience is going to achieve anything as the topic or technique in question has never been tackled before.

There are also times when I think classroom experience and content knowledge is itself something of a distraction. I think that this can be the case with coaching, where the focus is on the questions, coachees and a culture of curiousity. I think that Tomaz Lasic captures this in response to Jones’ tweet.


I am not sure if I am still a ‘teacher’? However, one thing that has not changed is that I care. As Dave Cormier suggests:

Once we jointly answer questions like “why would people care about this” and “how does this support people starting to care about this for the first time” and “will this stop people who care now from caring”, we have a place to work from.

This means having empathy for whoever it is that I am working with, being mindful of their context and identifying how I may support. This was how I approached teaching and it does not differ now.

As always, any thoughts and questions are welcome.


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The more leaders focus their relationships, their work, and their learning on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater will be their influence on student outcomes.

Sometimes it feels like some work is more important than others, but at the end of the day it is all real work.


An old colleague and I were recently discussing work and he shared the joy of doing what he termed ‘real work’ with schools. I stopped him in his tracks and explained that I understood where he was coming from. Working with teachers has always felt more meaningful, that it has more of an impact. However, I pointed out to him that the work that I do is no less real than his work.

Supporting student systems and those in administration, I have come to realise how much we often take for granted in regards to how schools run today. I was speaking to a coordinator at a school the other day about the various services and subscriptions they use. He explained that when there is a new student they need to be loaded into six different services. Technology is more than just a tool it is a complex set of connections that builds up over time.

One of the arguments for ‘real’ work is the ability to impact student outcomes. As Vivianne Robinson argues in her book, Student Centred Leadership,

The more leaders focus their relationships, their work, and their learning on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater will be their influence on student outcomes.

Although it may sometimes seem like a challenge to link some of my work back to the core business of learning and teaching students, I still think it is possible.

For example, one of the elements of the project I am working on is to provide schools a data analytics tool that supports teachers and leaders in making informed decisions. The challenge with this is that there are a lot of dependencies associated with it. For example, there is a dependency on schools having a recorded timetable. Although this is common for secondary schools, it is not so common for primary schools. I have therefore done a significant amount of work to limit how long this exercise takes. In regards to learning and teaching, this has the indirect impact of then allowing schools to spend more time focusing on learning and teaching.

The work that I do has many focuses. Sometimes it is about supporting simple transactions, other times it is about everyday efficiencies. Sometimes it is about helping schools reflect upon particular workflows to ease their workload, other times it is about improving a process, such as the creation of timetables. All of this though is real work that ends up having some sort of impact on student learning in the end.

What do you think? Is there some work that is more real than others? As always, thoughts and comments welcome.


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Quote about Mythologies

Whether it be sport, education or life, it can be easy to be typecast. The challenge is how to break this myth once it is established.


Glenn Maxwell: To Play or Not to Play, is that the Question?

When it comes to cricket, I am intrigued by Glenn Maxwell. On the one hand, he has shown the ability to achieve the unthinkable. Performing at the highest level, in a number of roles, with the bat, ball and in the field. Continually finding his way out of tricky situations through a mix of improvisation and creativity. This success and ability seems to have also been a part of his downfall as it has led to him being put in number of no win situations. Rather than seeing him cement himself in a particular position and subsequently a test career, he has seemingly been stuck playing something of a perpetual Mr. Fixit role.

In a recent interview with Sam Ferriss, Maxwell touches upon some of these challenges, one of which is the desire from selectors to just focus on white ball cricket.

Selection chairman Trevor Hohns said on Wednesday the National Selection Panel (NSP) want Maxwell to focus on white-ball cricket ahead of the 50-over World Cup in England later this year.

Maxwell shares the challenges associated with batting in six different positions in his first six test innings. With all the limited over cricket Maxwell has played, Ferriss suggests that in some ways it is amazing he has managed to play any test cricket. Some have blamed his character, the way he trains and his lack of runs and/or wickets. However, the biggest hurdle is often just opportunity:

If you are playing Shield cricket you’re not playing for Australia and if you’re playing for Australia you’re not playing Shield cricket.

Although he has taken the opportunity to play County cricket over the IPL, this is still restricted to just a few games. So much of his opportunities that Maxwell craves are therefore out of his hands.


Typecasting Teachers

This scenario has me thinking about education and the way in which teachers can be typecast into particular positions. Although this can be to the benefit of the school or system, it is often to the detriment of the individual.

Like Maxwell, I feel I have been thrown into a number of different situations as a Mr. Fixit. Whether it be to a change in staffing or timetable issues, personally they were often no win situations. Although I have the pedagogical nous, I did not always have the content knowledge to reference and build upon. In addition, these areas were often poorly supported with little room for development or innovation.

The catch is in an effort to break the Mr Fixit moniker you at the same time reinforce it. If you do poorly, then it justifies to some why you are just not good enough for what it is you were meant to be doing (even though that was not the reason given the change in roles), while if you do succeed this only adds to the myth made for you therefore earning yourself more Fix It jobs.

So often it feels like we talk about coaching and development until it no longer suits. Some argue that the answer is to move schools or change systems. However, just as it is not possible for Glenn Maxwell to go play test cricket for New Zealand it is not always possible to just move to the ideal role. Here lies the limit of a ‘solution focused’ approach that preaches ‘more runs’ or ‘different attitude’. The solution focus is to simply be grateful for what we have https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/03/west-virginia-oklahoma-protests-teacher-pay/555434/, especially when in Maxwell’s case it has the potential to earn him millions of dollars and to be glad that he has been able to play test cricket at all (see Jamie Siddons).


So what about you? How have you been supported to succeed? Are there sacrifices that you have had to make for sack of the students and the wider system? As always, comments welcome.

NOTE: I always did my best and was often the best fit for the position or maybe I simply cared more than others. This tendency though to have people teach outside of the expertise is a growing trend, especially around Mathematics.


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On Experience

During a recent trip to Fiji celebrating our ten year wedding anniversary, my wife and I were lucky enough to visit a local primary school. It had roughly 200 students with a class for each year level. It is always interesting appreciating learning in different contexts. It highlights some things that we take for granted.

Using the lens of the Modern Learning Canvas:

Modern Learning Canvas
The Modern Learning Canvas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Here are some of my observations of education in Fiji:

Roles, Strategies and Resources

A Fijian computer room … one computer

Although the students we met were vocal, it was hard to decipher much choice or action over their learning. On the flipside of this, the educator’s role seemed pretty traditional with the teacher driving much of the learning.

It is always hard to properly judge learning by a walk through on a random day. What stood out though was the environments. The rooms were relatively dark, with the school building shaded by a veranda on one side and a hill on the other. The only cooling was via ceiling fans. I wondered what Stephen Heppell’s Learnometer would make of it?

The walls were covered with posters of various words and facts, while the chalkboards were full of formulas and activities. By their faded nature, I am not sure how many of the resources are changed around and it made me feel almost indulgent the way some teachers cycle through charts and posters. Having said this, I imagine that posters and paper would probably suffer from the humidity?

It is interesting to think about such technology as the chalkboard in regards to pedagogy, something Audrey Watters’ recently reflected upon. Although many people in the community had smartphones, there was limited access to devices in the classroom. No projectors. A few desktops in a room, but nowhere near enough for a class, let alone the school. Most teachers had a laptop though, which they would use to support learning. This reminded me of my own experience a few years ago and a post I wrote about what you could do with just one computer.

We were shown the library, which was a room with a few boxes of books around the edge. I did not notice many books in the classrooms. Although the government has a policy focusing on access and quality:

A reasonable collection of resources should comprise ten books per student.

It was not clear how this resourcing is funded. This also goes for the push for more devices too. Resourcing seems dependant on donations from companies, such as Vodafone.

Culture and Policy

Fijian Education at a Glance 2018

With limited access to resources, more emphasis seemed to be put on speaking and performance. For example, students went through a rendition of a number of stories, such as We’re Going On a Bear Hunt, where the class was divided into two with one side repeating the lines of the other. A part of me wondered though if this was as much a reflection of the way in which they learnt in general, as music and oration seemed to be ingrained in a lot of what Fijians seem to do?

Each of the schools in Fiji seemed to have some religious affiliation. In part I would guess that this was based on the missionaries who set them up. In the school we visited this was evident in the bible verses posted on the walls.

On the flipside of this focus on culture, students were preparing for exams used to gain entry into secondary school. As with NAPLAN, The focus is on literacy and numeracy. Along with the supply of milk for Year One students, these were the only visible impacts of government intervention.

On a side note, the school had one of the most extreme emergency evacuation places, documenting what to do in the case of tsunami, earthquake, fire or mudslide. A reminder of nature’s presence.

Outcomes and Beliefs

It is interesting to consider Gert Biesta’s three arguments for a good education: qualification, socialization and subjectification. I felt the school touched on the first two of these. Speaking with some of the workers at the resort where we were staying the focus of education was very much about qualifications and what possibilities that might provide, while the posters discussing social media and alcohol touched on what it might mean to be a good citizen within the wider community. What this looked like in terms of outcomes was not so clear.

A Chalkboard and some desks is better than a tree in a field

When I think about other education environments I am always come back to a story, shared via Tom Whitby’s blog, involving teaching 230 children underneath a tree in Malawi. Although the school was not at those extremes – they had rooms and stable class sizes – it was a true reminder that sometimes we need to stop and appreciate the lot we have and make the most of it. What intrigued me is that as education becomes globalised, through such policy bodies as PISA, we overlook the expectations that can come with such changes. In some respect this is the purpose of the current project I am a part of, to bring schools up to a particular standard. Visiting Fiji has helped me think about some of the challenges and opportunities moving forward, as well as highlight some of my biases.

So what about you? Have you visited a school that helped challenge your thoughts and assumptions? As always, comments and webmentions welcome.


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In a recent episode of the Design and Play podcast, Dean Pearman and Steve Brophy spoke about the importance of sticking to their core beliefs and values. This means moving on when conflicted. Although this stance is to be applauded, I was left wondering if it were a luxury to actually be able to move on at will? It also had me wondering if perpetuating such a message is missing a trick?

I remember being told by a boss once ‘if you don’t like it here then you can leave’. I respect that, it was his choice and in the end I did leave. My concern though was not necessarily the location, but rather the leadership, the ‘my way or the highway’ mindset.

Maybe I am idealistic or just naive, but a leader cannot directly do the work of change and learning. Instead, they create the conditions for others to prosper. For some, this is putting ticks and balances in place to make sure that everyone is performing. For others it involves the distribution of leadership, development and collective capacity building.

I am always reminded of the story of Geelong Grammar’s adoption of Positive Psychology. It did not involve a few sessions with staff and students, rather it involved all members of school, including those working in administration and maintenance. This was about creating an environment where everyone can flourish.

Another similar program is Leading Teams. At the heart of this is an organisation leading change from the ground on up. This is not because someone above said so, but rather because it was a trademark agreed upon by the people on the ground. This involves trust. I remember Ray McLean recounting early stories of failure required to achieve collective success. However, too often such goal setting sessions become token, ticked off as something done, with people towing the party line, rather than sharing what they truly believe. Here I am reminded of David Culberhouse’s discussion of ‘positive deviance’, where the focus is on identifying the bright spots within an organisation and using their stories and strategies to help drive change.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone leaves in the end. However, wouldn’t it be better if such decisions happened to further opportunity, rather than fix our values? For in the end, it takes a village and surely that involves compromise. As always, comments welcome.


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Creative Innovation

“Creative Innovation” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Having just returned from the New Zealand, I was left with more questions than answers. Whether it be at Google Teacher Academy, Leading a Digital School conference or simply online, I have engaged with a number of New Zealand educators. I have been an avid reader of blogs from people such as Steve Mouldey, Juliet Revell, Richard Wells and Claire Amos, while Wells’ book provides a fantastic glimpse into some of the transformations that have occurred there. I was therefore intrigued to get a glimpse for myself. Here then are five thoughts I was left with based on my experiences:

  • AUTONOMY: The curriculum is built around a clear set of values, five key competencies and learning eight learning areas. Richard Wells captures this in a graphic. The support documents provide the ingredients, but leave schools to develop their own narrative. This freedom and flexibility provides a sense of autonomy for schools to respond to their own context and community. This means fluid learning communities, co-teaching and various inquiry-based pedagogies. Steve Mouldey provides a great insight into this, while Richard Wells has written a series of posts demonstrating ways of making learning more student centred.
  • COLLABORATION: Alongside choice, there is a focus on fostering the conditions to work collaboratively within clusters. For some this includes meeting between schools to moderate, while others provide connectivity to the community. These approaches are supported by initiatives and organisations such as, Mind Labs. CORE Education and the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning.
  • CULTURE: From the first step into Auckland Airport, the prominence of Maori culture is clear. As an outside, it feels as if Maori culture is at the heart of New Zealand culture. From a dedicated television station, dual signs and descriptions, various forms of customary greetings, and regular reference to art and tradition, the difference to Australian is noticeable. Where it stands out from an education point of view is the use of the Maori language to encapsulate values and attributes. I wonder if one aspect which makes this possible is the presence of a unified living language? Or if it all comes back to the Treaty of Waitangi? Although in Australia there is the Welcome to Country and attempt to recognise the local people of each region, this seems to fall short of the place that Maori culture has in New Zealand.
  • RESOURCES: One argument often made to why Finland is so successful is the amount of time teachers have out of the classroom to plan and prepare. For New Zealand it is the opposite. For example, primary teachers only get ten hours release a term and for some this includes a whole day release which often chews up half of this time. This reminds me of a point that George Couros makes in the Innovator’s Mindset around creative budgeting. Couros talks about the way in which Brad Gustafson makes a line intone budget for innovative projects. A side note to resourcing is the place of community partnerships. I stayed in one town where the local public school had all of the companies that support the school listed on the fence. There seems to be a different relationship between outside organisations and schools, although it was not clear as to how far this went.
  • TRANSFORMATION: It can be easy to read an account or watch a an example from a few years ago and think that is the way it has always been and continues to be. However, what worked yesterday may not be what works today. Some of the New Zealand schools which had been been held up as showcases, demonstrating fluid and visible practices, have continued to evolve and iterate. They take what works and refine what could be better. Interestingly, this is similar to the Finnish story. It can be easy to read Pasi Sahlberg’s account and think that is the way things are. However, even Finland – seemingly at the top of the world – knows that to stand still is to go backwards.

At the start I said I was left with more questions, than answers. Some of the things that I was left wondering was what the future had to offer? The government is looking to increase funding for independent schools. Some schools still choosing to reinstate rather than redefine the status quo. Teachers supported but not necessarily in regards to time. The world is becoming more and more multinational/multicultural. It will be interesting to see where this all goes. For some this makes it an incredibly hard time to be involved with education, but I would argue that it simply makes it even more important to continue to fight for what Gert Biesta describes as a ‘good education’.

Thanks must be given to me wife who supported writing this by adding her thoughts and perspectives. If you have something else to add, as always comments welcome.


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I recently took up Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. It was not what I expected. I read a lot of non-fiction and being out of the classroom, this has only increased. So as part of my summer siesta I turned to McCarthy for some relief.

Blood Meridian is one of those books that seems to come up again and again in discussions. I recall it being reviewed on The Book Club, while Jim Groom often mentions it. I imagined it would be an American version of the True History of the Kelly Gang. I was wrong. McCarthy makes Peter Carey look like a children’s author.

The key to Carey’s retelling is that it is done through the perspective of authority. Although he gives accounts of murder and hardship, the description is somewhat subdued. Although Blood Meridian involves power, it is a power that exists beyond the grip of authority. The fact that one of the main characters is The Judge only adds to this irony.

Blood Meridian is instead a book about silence. It attempts to captures a violent world that in Carey’s tale is somewhat left untold. When all is said and done, it feels like there is so much left unsaid. In particular, we are left guessing about the thoughts and intentions of the various characters. All we can do is presume. The only guarantee is that no matter what happens,they kept on riding.

This notion of going on reminds me of education. Often there are stories told, official stories. Ones about timetableedtech platformscurriculumdisciplines. However, beneath these tales are stories that often remain silent. Jagged stories that defy statistics. Stories of actions and interpretation. Amongst all of this there are people who each and every day simply teach on.


I have read many books, but there are only a few that I feel I will never completely forget. Midnight’s Children is one, Blood Meridian is another. So what about you? What are the uncanny books that stay with you after the fact? As always, comments welcome.


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

I have started reading Gert Biesta’s book, Good Education in an Age of Measurement. In the first chapter, he puts forward the case of three key arguments for a ‘good education‘: qualification, socialization and subjectification.

Qualification is defined as:

The qualification function is without doubt one of the major functions of organized education and constitutes an important rationale for having state-funded education in the first place.

Socialization as:

Through its socializing function education inserts individuals into existing ways of doing and being. In this way education plays an important role in the continuation of culture and tradition—both with regard to its desirable and its undesirable aspects.

And subjectification as:

The subjectification function might perhaps best be understood as the opposite of the socialization function. It is precisely not about the insertion of “newcomers” into existing orders, but about ways of being that hint at independence from such orders, ways of being in which the individual is not simply a “specimen” of a more encompassing order.

These, Biesta argues, are not to simply be considered in isolation, but in how they interact:

The three functions of education can therefore best be represented in the form of a Venn diagram, i.e., as three partly overlapping areas, and the more interesting and important questions are actually about the intersections between the areas rather than the individual areas per se.

This focus on purpose is in contrast to what Biesta describes as the ‘learnification’ of education. This is where the sole concern becomes the individualistic process of learning, rather than the intent that is actually associated with this.

This discussion of purpose made me wonder about things like learning walks and annual review processes. What if the success or failure of something like a learning walk was decided before anyone even enters the room? What happens if a coach considers qualification as being the primary purpose of education and inadvertently applies this lens to what they see. Yet the teacher in question’s primary concern is socialization?

I am wondering if it is for this reason that we need something more than a set of standards to improve education. We need a holistic approach, like the Modern Learning Canvas, that incorporates all the different facets.


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

What about you? What tools and techniques have you used to capture a rich picture of practice? As always, comments welcome.


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In a post titled ‘Men Explain Technology To Me’, Audrey Watters unpacks the statistics and challenges that face women working in edtech. Whether it be the predominance of white males running the internet, an inherent culture of ‘mansplaining’, the culture of violence and abuse or the sheer numbers of women actually not working within the big edtech companies, Watter’s paints a picture of oppression.

Although gender and oppression is nothing new, it is the extremities of Watter’s account which brings the issue to the fore. In addition, Watter’s emphasises that these challenges are in no ways just an ‘edtech’ issue. Here is a few examples which help elaborate this:

The question I was left with was how do I respond? In particular to the wider inequities at play within education. Too often we read things online or hear things at a conference and, for whatever reason, fail to properly follow up.

My initial step was to reflect on my own habits. I started with my 200 odd blogs in my RSS Feed. After downloading the OPML file, I put them into a spreadsheet and proceeded to categorise them.


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

In addition, Tom Woodward pointed me to an app that analyses your Twitter:


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

The story told by both is that I am as much a part of the problem. However, it also made me wonder about the biases that were within such applications. I then started exploring what could be done to change this situation. Some possibilities include:  

  • Supporting Female Educators: The first idea I thought of doing was calling out the great work done by women. Whether it be follow Friday (#FF) or any other means of sharing. This is an area that I have been called out on before for not doing enough. There are plenty of examples listicles, such as Peter DeWitt’s 18 Women All K-12 Educators Should Know, Naomi Barnes’ Women in Science, Sue Crowley’s 100 Female Education Authors or David Wees’ Female Educational Theorists. Problem I have with this approach is that lists quickly become about who is not included as much as who is.
  • Developing Safer Technology: One of the issues that Watters raises in her post is the structure of the technology and its influence on our interactions. One suggestion she makes is reimagining commenting. Building on the IndieWeb movement, Watters suggests that comments should be housed on a ‘domain of our own’ and then linked to the source post. Another technical solution is the blocking of known serial harassers on platforms such as Twitter using something like the BlockBot.
  • Equitable Diet: What is shared online is not always equal. An answer to rebalancing my biases when it comes to blogs, articles and books is to more actively read female writers. This has included putting out the call on Twitter for new blogs to add to Feedly. I also consciously seek out female authors, especially when I do not have a particular focus.
  • Equitable Representation: Inequity is often perpetuated at conferences and professional development sessions when one male after another gets up to present. It is therefore heartening to attend conferences like Digicon where it would seem that there is a conscious decision to have an equal amount of men and women when it comes to keynotes. Beyond this, I think that it is important to encourage women to present when and where applicable, especially when it is only confidence holding them back.
  • Be More Mindful: The most important thing though is actually being aware that there is an imbalance at all. This is as much to recognise the bias at play, not to somehow magically stand outside of it. A part of this is being informed where possible.

With this all said and done, it feels naive to talk about solutions as if it is so clear cut. I fear being tokenistic, something Maha Bali makes point of in her post on marginality. I also worry about only focusing on one form of inequality, when as Watters points out, there are many, especially when it comes to edtech. I wonder if the real solution is actually being silent? Or in our lives actions and experiences? Maybe this post is simply adding to the problem and is itself a case of mansplaining? It is for this reason that this post has taken considerable time to write.

Coming back to technology, Greg Thompson talks about how technology has the power to make us. The question that I wonder is what sort of ‘us’ is it making. As always, comments welcome.


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

This post is my contribution to Steve Wheeler’s twisted pair challenge. Although not as esoteric as Wheeler’s pairings, it at least demonstrates the links between diverse ideas.


I’ll never forget reading about the spat that followed Collingwood’s loss in the 2003 AFL Grand Final. Having lost Anthony Rocca, a key position player, the week before, Mick Malthouse decided to trial Jason Cloke in the position of centre-half forward. A young player who had spent most of his 40 games in the back line, he was thrown into the fire and failed. With only a few possessions, the coach openly spoke about his disappointment as was David Cloke, a proud father, who spoke out about the comments. What stands out to me is the expectation that placing people in unfamiliar surroundings may magically pay off. (Add Glenn Maxwell batting up the order in India to that list, another classic example.) Maybe the player had spent time as a youth in that position, maybe they had shown some promise in a different context in different surrounds or was the right fit on paper. Whatever the reason, such sporting stabs in the dark, hopeful wishes you may like, often fail to proper more often than not.


A few years ago, I was faced with the arduous task of landscaping my backyard. Starting with something of a blank canvas, I drew up an outline of the space with circles and lines to mark the dimensions where the different plants would go. Sometimes it feels both arrogant and naïve planning out a space. After going to the local nursery, I decided to plant lilly pillies down the side of the property. The aim was to create something of a hedge. On the tag, it stated that in the right conditions a lilly pilly can grow up to 100 metres tall. After bringing in new soil, watering regularly and providing large amounts of fertilizer, two of the ten trees failed to take. In addition to this, even though they were all planted at the same time, those at the back grew twice as large as the those down the side. Another observation was that the irises planted near the dead lilly pillies also had struggled to take. This raised so many questions, such as the make-up of the soil, the sunlight in these spots, the potential of basalt beneath the surface and the mix of nutrients. The reality though is that I could have planted another tree in their place, desiring order and symmetry. However, more often than not nature does not work that way. So I left it. Admitting that just maybe the lilly pilly may not be the right plant for the spot.


So often we talk about knowing thy impact. That is, to evaluate the effect of our teaching on students’ learning and achievement. Although it is important to identify what is working and how we might be going. Another story that often goes untold is what impacts upon a teacher?

The easy solution in education that everyone jumps to is the desire to get rid of your worst teacher. However, I have heard many experiences where the supposed ‘worst’ teacher is the teacher who is also the ‘least’ supported. Don’t get me wrong, they are often provided emergency support. At the heart of the matter, they are left to plan alone, expected to create everything from scratch and provide little structured support.

Measuring thy context includes things such as: support provided, level of trust in the organisation, sense of confidence, opportunity to work in a team, size of the classes, the state of the learning spaces, when your classes are timetabled on and the list goes on. This is not a list of excuses, but rather a recognition of complexity associated with impact and its connection to context.

So what about you? What is your context and how does it impact you?


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