Banish the gatekeepers and bring forth the creators

Have you ever found something from the Internet that could be a perfect resource (image, video, quiz, etc.,) for your class worksheet, website, or research and then spent hours trying to figure out the copyright issues with that resource? You couldn’t find any Terms of Use, and there was no author information, so you didn’t know whom to contact to get the permission?

Wouldn’t it have been nice if that resource somehow said, “I’m free to use, no strings attached, you don’t need to ask for my permission because it is already granted”?

Well guess what … Open Educational Resources (OER) are an answer to that need!

There are millions of educational resources out there that are available for others to freely use. There are all kinds: full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and many other tools, materials and techniques used to support access to knowledge. 1

Worldwide academics, politicians, teachers, scientists and everyday citizens are making and sharing what they’ve researched and created with as part of a worldwide OPEN movement.

Waving the flag high and shouting from the world’s rooftops are Creative Commons, who are passionate about constantly growing the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.

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A stranger in a strange land?

I recently read a blog post by Wharehoka Wano and watched Alex Hotere-Barnes on EDtalks. Both of these discussions centred on Māori/Pākehā dynamics within education settings. Reading Wharehoka’s blog and listening to Alex got me thinking about an experience I had a few weeks ago when I was in Whakatāne as part of the LEARNZ Waka Voyaging virtual field trip.

pohiri MoutahoraEnd of the pōhiri on Moutohorā

An honest appraisal

I don’t mind admitting that throughout the course of my life to date I have internalised some of those ‘white privilege’ examples that Wharehoka refers to in his blog. A lack of empathy and misunderstanding about Māori culture and its place in our society has surely led to a fair amount of ‘Pākehā paralysis’ on my part throughout my involvement in education.

On the other hand, I did go to a primary school that had a lot of Māori culture within its curriculum. We learned many waiata along with their actions, how to pronounce words properly, some vocabulary and phrases, different games, as well as incorporating Māori culture and history into artwork and so on. Although this was now many years ago, I can certainly credit those formal experiences with grounding me enough to at least reflect on and question my own beliefs and assumptions around issues of ‘privilege’.

What a pity this great start in Māori education didn’t extend beyond primary school!

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Keep the fear off the set

John cusackDo you remember the actor/director John Cusack? He of ‘High Fidelity’ and ‘Being John Malkovich’ fame?  I recently heard about ‘The John Cusack Rule’. When asked in an interview about how he saw his role as film producer, he said his main job was, ”To keep the set free from fear.”

This ‘rule’ was offered to me as a guiding principle for working in large-scale volunteering spaces — and it feels equally useful for anyone working with others through challenge and change. I have blogged twice this year about transformative change (‘Transforming learning’ and ‘Can we create conditions for transformation?’) — and this post continues this theme.

The John Cusack story was shared by Joe McCannon and Becky Kanis Margiotta, the two founders of the Billions Institute, and I was lucky enough to spend a day working with them as part of the Carnegie Summit on Improvement Science that I attended last month. Both Joe and Becky have notched up years in health and social impact fields, rehousing thousands of homeless and scaling the rollout of vital health services. Not in education — and all the more refreshing for it! Looking to other sectors can help us make new connections that can fuel innovative thinking back at base.

The following ideas were shared by them on the day and I offer them as useful nuggets to help us support and scale innovation in our own contexts.

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Navigating the Flood and Avoiding the Fog of Information Overload

information overload

I wonder if you’ve felt in recent years that life is constantly overwhelming — that there’s so much more to deal with than you have time for, and that you are always in ‘catch-up’ mode?

Welcome to my world. In fact, welcome to our world: an increasingly-digital world of multiple demands and stimulations, full of so many challenging, exciting and diverse opportunities that it becomes difficult to decide what to do. Perhaps we feel a little like the proverbial children in a sweetshop, but faced with much more complex situations. And as educators, we are tasked with the additional responsibility of helping the next generation to navigate this world.

Does it make your head whirl? Do you sometimes find yourself so busy being connected and available, that you fall into the trap of thinking of ubiquity as:

‘everywhere, all the time’

rather than:

‘anywhere, any time’?

Does the mental fog sometimes descend and paralyse you temporarily? Do you feel the slight panic and fear of missing out, if you don’t feel up-to-date or on top of everything? I know that I do!

Recently I found myself discussing this very issue with members of my book discussion group. Among our number are several educators, businesswomen, and psychologists, so the conversation ran deep and drew on wide bases of knowledge and experience. This powerful social context for learning led us to discovery of a taonga – which, if you did not already know of it, I now pass on to you.


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Personalising student devices

Developers are working hard to make devices easier to use and more accessible, but most people don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to using all the features their device offers.

The inbuilt options are not just for those with specific disabilities. Just as we would adjust a car seat to suit our individual needs, our devices can be personalised for a best fit with an individual profile as unique as a fingerprint. A device can be personalised by the user themselves and/or set up for them by someone who knows them well and is aware of the options available.

Personalisation can help to make the experience of using technology more enjoyable and efficient. It can affect a student’s emotional state by reducing stress and addressing access and learning barriers. These, in turn, can make a big difference to productivity and behaviour.

Standard devices now include options that mean that they work well for many more users than they did in the past. People who would have traditionally needed quite specialised devices can now use the inbuilt features in standard devices to work alongside their peers.

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Talanoa tips with Pasifika learners

Talanoa = conversation/s. These are conversations that build and strengthen relationships between Pasifika learners and teachers, teachers and parents, and schools and Pasifika communities.

Everyday talanoa (conversation) is part of life; it is a way of communicating to our peers, colleagues, and workmates. The talanoa is one form of communication that can easily be used when communicating with our Pasifika learners, their parents, families, and communities?

In this blog post I have shared with you ways of engaging with your schools, and questions you may ask as you work through using the talanoa process. What do Pasifika success, Pasifika aspirations, Pasifika presence, Pasifika engagement, and Pasifika achievement look like in your school or field of work? These ideas are outlined below to support you in your work.

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Who navigates change? — A learner’s view of change leadership…


What is changing?

I have been thinking a lot lately about how people are supported when facing significant change in their lives, especially in the complex and ever-changing world of education. Research tells us that we can no longer prepare learners for the 21st century and beyond through industrial and content-driven models. We should be creating learning opportunities that harness and spark innovation, creativity, collaboration, digital literacy, and curiosity for the world around us. We should be encouraging educators to continually inquire into practice through a future-focused lens.

Lichtman (2014) states that, when a school is facing organisational or cultural changes, it can be very uncomfortable, cause displacement and even grief, but that all of this is OK, and that we should welcome the uncomfortable. He also unpacks the difference between ‘hard’ and ‘uncomfortable’. Hard is where you are fighting against every odd and the chance of success is highly unlikely. But, uncomfortable is where we get to challenge and make some really tough decisions. I guess, that means that it is not impossible and can be achieved with the right support? At times of significant change, though, it can be very challenging to move out of the “this-is-just-too-hard” and into the “I-am-just-uncomfortable-but-will-get-through-it” frame of mind. Isn’t it?


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A simple tool to help you reflect


After an interesting conversation this morning, I was inspired to write about a simple tool I have recently been using and recommending for reflection. During the conversation, I laughed as I spoke of my wish that I had understood the value of reflecting while training as a teacher. I, like most, was required to reflect daily on the calibre and quality of learning being planned and delivered. Those reflections were on a subject-by-subject, lesson-by-lesson basis, using a strict template of prompt questions that focused on behaviour, classroom management, resources, and preparedness. Only now, over ten years later and having developed a strong understanding of who I am as a reflective practitioner, have I finally had the opportunity to take stock and share the value of reflecting on practice to inform practice.

And so, I thought I would take the opportunity to share a simple method of reflection and analysis that may help to extend and deepen thinking following professional learning and development or even some reflection after teaching.

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You Matter — Make sure you remember that!

This post is a deliberate departure from our usual kind of post. Educators, to be good educators, need to think about their own welfare.

How do we change the ‘badge of busy’? In the world of ‘busy’ it is easy to overlook how precious we are, how much we matter, and remember to retain our self in the midst of the busy-ness! There is an abundance of ‘busy’ in our system:

“Let go of the need to be busy and rather just be. Slow down, take it all in and realize that this moment — right here, right now — is precious. When we’re too busy being busy we can miss this amazing life we are living.” – Aimee Raupp

As autumn dazzles us with its golden and red hues, take time to realise that YOU Matter. Your health and well-being matters. It is time to slow down, take time, and take stock. What are you doing to take the best possible care of yourself? To value yourself? To fortify yourself for the coming winter season?

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Leadership in a (permanent) crisis


The (permanent) crisis

The notion of a crisis and leadership often go hand-in-hand; we’re led to believe that true leaders rise to the fore in times of crisis; they show their heroic leadership skills as they navigate their organisations through an exceptional period of turmoil.

But the title of this blog post is borrowed from an article by Ron Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky, which proposes that we are living through such rapidly changing times that periods of turmoil are in fact no longer exceptional, they’re the rule. Organisations no longer attempt to get through a crisis in the hope that one day things will return to normal; the new normal is ongoing disruption.

It’s against this background that Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky wrote 'Leadership Without Easy Answers' and proposed the idea of adaptive leadership. They argue that challenges can often be divided into two categories:

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