Lead Learning by Doing

IMG_1123Here are some random reflections from a Bastow Course I am currently engaged in.

A Rich Seam – How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning- really resonated with me and the work of leading learning in our schools in todays world. Our school is currently in a deep learning phase as we speak implementing and embedding our learning process. Here are some points that on reflections are drivers in our work of leading by doing….

Deep Learning Leaders:

  • recognised the need to share the leadership of learning
  • become storytellers
  • acknowledge mistakes and drive transparent, collaborative reflection
  • learn from the things that didn’t work and encourage risk
  • STOP DOING things that do not support learning
  • cultivate social capital and leadership among students, teachers, parents and the broader community
  • keep learning with and alongside students, parents and teachers
  • cultivate their cultures and building capacities in some very specific ways


As with any great learning organisation it is about process not product. It’s about Cultures, Relationships and Teams. In schools it’s about a learning community process, the capacity for teams to work and do things differently and for all leaners to be valued and given voice and choice about their learning pathways…… ‘localised recipes with ingredient about how’ (Heppell)

As leaders of “teams” in our learning communities- who owns the learning in the business of our professional learning? Are the staff we work with truly valued and given ‘real’ ownership of their learning..….I’m suggesting this is changing….and quickly …….due to social media, mobile devices, better internet access and access to learning anywhere anytime, the irrelevance of schools and other learning institutions is changing how we “certificate”………The powerful of social media for PLN and the concept of “learning anytime anywhere” for staff is now NOT a question at all. “It just Is”

Learning in an Ideal School from Simon on Vimeo.

Apple Institute 2013

Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2013 Apple Institute in Bali as part of the Apple Distinguished Educators program. As a new ADE at first I was unsure of what to expect. Having attended many conferences and study tours in the past, there were feelings of nervous anticipation about what I had got myself into. The lead up to the institute involved some course work and preparation through the participation in an iTunesU course, which on reflection was a great way to prepare for a weeks worth of professional learning and networking. On arrival in Bali we were welcomed and certainly made aware of the expectations for the week ahead. The nerves soon passed as excitement and energy built with the opening address in true Apple style. There were a number of opportunities to meet new ADEs and begin our professional learning networks. With a mixture of workshops, keynotes and personal project time, the week seemed to fly. A highlight was a workshop by Bill Frakes http://ipad.billfrakes.com/ from sports Illustrated/CNN. Bill shared his life’s work around photography and the many connections to learning and following your passions…simply amazing! For me the message was about the power of story through the use of video and pictures, and allowing students to be creative in order to make learning relevant to their lives. Bills workshop has encouraged me to investigate further forms of photography and ways this medium could be used in schools to drive innovation and creativity. As the week unfolded we were challenged to think differently from many educators with inspiring stories about how their schools and learning communities have embraced Apple technologies to enhance and make learning more powerful.

My 3 take aways from the Institute

Learning and teaching in todays world is not about technology it’s about the how of learning and the ability of individuals to rethink schooling

The power of developing relationship with like minded people can never be underestimated- all teachers should have this opportunity

Our schools and learning communities can be different in terms of size and systems but our challenges are very similar and relevant when it comes to technology integration and learning design

While the institute has now concluded, I sense the learning and networking may just be beginning to unfold. Already there is a real buzz on the twittersphere as we reflect on what just took place and the amazing community we are now part of. I look forward to the new learnings and ideas ahead as we go about our work of making our schools powerful places of learning for our communities.

Rethinking Relevance

Recently I presented to a group of Teacher Education students about the concept of thinking differently about teaching in todays schools and the power technology can bring to the our learning environments. I spoke about the need for collaborative learning approaches and the expectation now that we must work in TEAMS to go about our daily work. More so than ever we must rethink our work and learning spaces and we need to ask ourselves a simple question- As a teacher what do I need to know and be able to do, in order to be relevant?

Research into Professional Learning supports the view that schools can no longer afford the luxury of separating professional development activities from the ongoing realities of teachers’ work (Johnson, 1999, p.13.) Teachers need to adopt a learning approach that is ‘relevant’ for our time. Learning can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone. As leaders and teachers we must clarify our learning needs and source others to support us in doing so. Twitter, blogs, YouTube, iTunesU, Apps make up the new learning landscape for teachers and leaders of schools.

Scull (1997), Johnson and Scull (1998) list ten characteristics of effective learning teams. While their research is somewhat dated the evidence is clear. We must think differently about our needs as learners and work in new ways.

If capacity building is to be effective and influence school transformation then it needs to be built into the life cycle and culture of schools as learning communities. These characteristics listed by Johnson and Scull are effective and work if the school culture embraces the ideas. A school’s culture must foster an atmosphere that supports teachers, students, and parents to know where they fit in and how they can work as a community to support teaching and learning. Creating a school culture requires instructional leaders to develop a shared vision that is clearly communicated and built on actions. Additionally, principals must create a climate that encourages shared authority and responsibility if they are to build a positive school culture (MacNeil and Maclin, 2005).

10 characteristics of learning teams

  1. Learning teams require a reason to learn and a purpose to engage in collaborative professional development practices. Projects provide reason and purpose, and allow an integrated approach to the implementation of curriculum improvement.
  2. Learning team projects are best focused on collective responsibility for producing more effective learning for ALL students.
  3. Learning teams benefit from a combination of outside-provided and work-embedded support
  4. Effective learning teams practise many forms of collaboration and systematic reflection on practice.
  5. A sense of ‘personal productive challenge’ and a balance between pressure and support characterizes the work of effective learning teams.
  6. Learning teams require knowledgeable, skilled and supportive formal leadership
  7. Successful learning teams address the tensions inherent in the formal leader’s role and in the personal and professional relationships within the learning team
  8. In effective learning teams all members consider themselves to be change agents and leaders
  9. When challenged by a change proposal, effective learning teams practise ‘mutual adaptation’ and stay in control while implementing change for the purpose of improvement
  10. Learning teams implement change in ways and at rates different from one another