uLearn16 – Keynote #4 – Karen Spencer

‘Beyond the echo chamber: The extraordinary possibilities of a networked profession’

Karen will take you on a provocative journey to explore the rapid rise in innovative professional learning. From ‘done to’ staff meetings to collaborative, agile investigations into what’s happening for our learners, the way educators improve and grow has evolved rapidly in recent years. She’ll explore new insights into professional learning, best ways to embrace change, and invite you to think about how we can transform what we do for our learner.

In many ways this was a perfect closing to uLearn16: synthesising the key themes of the conference and drawing together some superb advice for working in praxis. Karen acknowledged poetically the essence of teaching, affirming that getting better at what we do is part of our DNA and that methods matter. She also affirmed that the greatest difference to student achievement is teachers. Teachers’ beliefs are fundamentally important.

The approach that will make the greatest difference to students is self-belief in teachers to collaborate and to be effective

If we are to surround ourselves with only voices that agree with us then we can end up operating in a filter. It’s vital we keep our views being challenged and engage with dialogue with alternative viewpoints. There is no one idea, so we must hold our ideas lightly.

The key note stuck to a central theme of embarking on change. This was fitting, as come the end of the conference with so many ideas boiling at the surface, the how was never more important. The three considerations before embarking on change:

  • Find the urgency
  • See the story behind the data
  • Embrace discomfort


1. Find the Urgency

With so many initiatives and ideas surrounding us, a continual yearn for solutions and constant educational designing; it is hard to have deep meaningful change. So we need to focus on the most urgent area that students need most. Find the urgency. giphy

Go slowly into innovation and take the time to ensure it is deep and meaningful, not a band aid solution. Focus needs to be spent on the things that are urgent. There’s no such thing as small change. The answers are not at the next exit – because it is a fluid process. Look for the alignment between the vision and what is happening for the students.

Pause before you leap into the next innovation…

how-to-hire-a-cfd-consultant-maslow-71405b732. See the Story Behind the Data

Data is one thing, but the story is as important. Listen to your learners. Make it be OK for it to be safe for them to offer us their feedback. Their voice is so important, but it has to be genuine. They have to have the space for their voice to be heard authentically.

3. Embrace Discomfort

Being a modern educator means having our biases being gently exposed. You need the diverse views in order to realise where you are making assumptions. We all see things differently and being open to alternative points of views is fundamental to success across the board in education. Our challenge sometime sis finding ways to hear diverse perspectives.

Naturally there is pressure to conform (last clap) and agree with colleagues. Devil’s advocating and seeking diverse views can help – read a blog you don’t agree with. John Cusack rule:

I have one rule: keep the fear off the set

Five Actions

  1. Compare the school’s vision and curricula
  2. Explore the story behind the data
  3. Walk around all the information
  4. Resist ‘solutionitis’
  5. Agree on the strong signals before you test and trial

The learning we do together is not the extra thing we do on the plate, it is the plate. Education doesn’t change the world. Education changes people and people change the world.


uLearn16 – Digital and Learner-Centred Delivery

‘Digital and learner-centred delivery: what’s different and how does it work in reality?’

By Cornel Fuhri (Scots College) and Shanan Holm (iQualify/Open Polytechnic)

When learner experience is put at the centre of learning design at a platform level, what changes? In this technological age, when students have constant access to devices, how do we teach them in a way that they want to learn, and that we can manage to teach? Is there a balance between pre-packed learnings and just-in-time teaching and learning? What changes are needed in tools to support assessment in this world? How do we make sure key concepts are covered while allowing for flexibility and discovery? This session will explore these questions and provide ideas on how they can be achieved.

Raised some general questions about e-learning and what digital learning looks like. Breakout covered familiar territory in terms of this area. But this neatly moved into a sales pitch for iQualify which is focused on the L in LMS. Effectively, it’s a really polished and sexy version of moodle. The perspective was a well worn pathway of contemporary thinking around digital tools. The selling points o the system logostem from:

  • Learning experiences
  • Flexibility
  • Digital Assessment

There were some interesting points and reminders about good practice. The comments on assessment contained strong ideas, deconstructing the notion of summative assessment as authentic, affirming that assessment needs to be early and often. It also provoked my thinking around using a Learning Management System and the restrictions that are imposed by locking down a course. The focus on learning outcomes is something that sits uncomfortably with me as the learning is so teacher-directed. Why determine the learning outcomes before meeting the students? The presentation didn’t offer much clarity in terms of differentiation and how this promotes learner agency or student voice. The tool claimed to be learner centred, but I’m cynical as a student who can determine what pace they go at doesn’t necessary get to be at the centre of their learning. I don’t think the tool supports this – it is still the teacher and their philosophy who dictates how agentic their classroom is.

What is frustrating about this breakout is that the conversation was directed into practice around the tool, investigating how to deal with the unexpected and the ins and outs of how the tool works including how to share URLs with students. This confused space between pedagogy and practical wasn’t particularly supportive to a deep learning experience, but it really did just shape itself as a sales pitch. I feel like jumping into a LMS like this closes off the learning experience rather that opens it up. Great for a Polytech – not appropriate for my classroom.

uLearn16 -Keynote #3 – Michael Fullan

‘Early lessons from implementing New Pedagogies for Deep Learning’

Our work on School Leadership, Professional Capital and Coherence is becoming deeply integrated and embedded in the clusters and networks of schools that are engaged in implementing ‘new pedagogies’. I will identify some early lessons concerning how leadership for deep learning differs when it comes to digitally accelerated innovations. There are also some surprising new findings about the role of students as change agents relative to pedagogy, school organisation, and even societal change.

Humans are innately wired to connect, create and help humanity. We see examples of this through psychological experiments with children – it is innate human nature to help others. Society, education and life either enhances this natural wiring or it crushes them. Out job is to ensure we enhance. Transformational pedagogies are there to uncover the reservoir of creativity that sits within our students that is otherwise suppressed.

Whole system change strategies

  • Accountability (history of failure)
  • Standards (insufficient)
  • System Culture (promising success)

Don’t obsess with targets – a negative of system change. Aspirational targets are good – but obsessing with target clouds the intent and prevents the effectiveness of the change.

b9-3d4wciaefwcmFocus on the 6 C’s of education:

  • Character education: building resilience, empathy, confidence and wellbeing.
  • Citizenship: referencing global knowledge, cultural respect, environmental awareness.
  • Communication: getting students to apply their oral work, listening, writing and reading in varied contexts.
  • Critical-thinking: designing and managing projects which address specific problems and arrive at solutions using appropriate and diverse tools.
  • Collaboration: working in teams so students can learn with/from others.
  • Creativity and imagination: to develop qualities like enterprise, leadership, innovation.

Breakthrough leadership – If you are the only person in the room that is right, you better stop talking and start listening

  • Respect and reject the status quo, he status quo is just not good enough.
  • Be an expert and an apprentice, open to learning but lead learning too.
  • Experiment and commit to problem solve and do it better. Stay with the problem learn from it and commit to getting it right.

The Seventh Sense, Ramo – the pros and cons of networking

  • The new reality – ubiquitous social media can’t be controlled – they weaken hierarchies (when you weaken hierarchies you open up lateral thinking and solutions)
  • Distribution and concentrated connection is the new power
  • The young and the most connected – and the LEAST commited to the status quo (agents of change when you set it up right)
  • Humans, especially the young, find helping humanity to be an intrinsic value
  • The above conditions cause learners to outrun leaders and researchers
  • The job of education is to produce better citizens for tomorrow, today

Jal Mehta offers advice (10 potential pitfalls) that can doom teaching for deeper learning:

The professional development system is broken – the back roads are open. Partnership of construction within teaching networks – student performance should be measured on global competencies.

Big ideas:

  1. Students as agents of change (let students drive the change – be open to their voices and their ideas)
  2. Professional Capital of Teachers (leadership from the middle, use the thinking and the knowledge that is already there)
  3. Coherence (make it more simple – simplexity – don’t make complicated things complicated. Take the complicated and break it into simple chunks!)

Further reading: ‘A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning’  by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy

uLearn16 – Assessing Deep Learning

uLearn16 – Assessing Deep Learning

By Margot McKeegan and Derek Wenmoth

Deep Learning is the key focus of an international collaboration led by Michael Fullan, involving clusters and networks of schools working together to build knowledge and practices that develop deep learning and foster whole system change. In this workshop participants will be introduced to the measures being used to evaluate the deep learning in this programme, and experience how these are applied in a practical way to form judgements about the learning that is occurring.

Notes below are a bit sporadic representing the sort of spitfire nature of the session where Derek threw out a lot of provocations. The notes written here are largely responses captured from my own thinking or something contributed from the group attending the workshop. Lots of things to continue unpacking.

Key questions:

  • What is deep learning?
  • How might we measure it?
  • What evidence would we use?

What is deep learning? Collaborative padlet. No one was talking about tests or national standards etc. Connecting this to the learning stories that we’ve experienced. What indicators do we use?

What does deep learning look like? What does it sound like, look like, feel like? When learning is deep it will feel hard and frustrating. The challenge of overcoming something because it is hard is what makes the learning worthwhile. It will involve emotion where the students and the teachers are excited – mutual respect. Zone of proximal development – it stretches people. Challenge for educators thinking about scaffolding the processes so that the learning is accessible. It sounds like students being about to articulate their learning, using their voice.

How is this measured? Consider the models of Bloom’s Taxonomy, SAMR, AsTTle, and SOLO Taxonomy. How do you know if someone is successful? Co-construct the success criteria with the students. Allows deeper learning of ourselves – how has the learning changed you as a learner? The idea of self-empowerment and leadership allowing the learner to become more self-aware and global citizens.

Connection to the movement in the media whereby news stories are about the soundbite or the headline. Do we still value the 6 o’clock news? Is news coverage now surface level, or deep.pedagogies-for-deep-learning

New pedagogies foster deep learning. It has to occur in four dimensions: pedagogical practices, leaning partnerships, learning environments, leveraging digital. Building precision. The focus of most of the workshops discussion was pedagogical practices.

This image on the right is taken from this blogpost which unpacks the new pedagogies for deep learning. The model below gives criteria and indicators that can be used (and were used) to assess a lesson plan:


While it is easy to be critical of something in this context, the challenge is to apply the same critique to our own lesson plans.

If you think you’re already doing it. Ask for a second opinion

uLearn16 – Keynote #2 – John Couch

‘New Dimensions in Learning’

John leads the Education business at Apple – his more than 40 years as a computer scientist and his advocacy for the use of technology in education has revolutionised learning in the classroom. At Apple, our dedication to learning has always been a part of our DNA.

John captured the shift in education – defining it as a movement from education to learning. He reminded us of the ‘memorisation era’ and what has since happened to transform practice. School used to be a place where one could memorise their way through, but this is no longer the case. Education is what people do to you; learning is what you do for yourself.

So… we need to have a vision. A vision clairfies one’s mission. Vision is inspirational; mission is measurable. Why does your school exist. Can you articulate the why? Creativity allows us to think differently and provide environments where a student can be engaged. If the student is engaged, they’re going to learn.

How are we creating a learning environment around technology?  We look at technology as a tool. Digital natives see it as an environment. We used to call it cheating, now we call it collaboration.

All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time – Steve Jobs

Think about Apple Education and their leading example:


Knowledge is…something that emerges from the students’ own curiosity-fueled exploration. – Joshua Davis

wp-1475722668894.jpgPersonalised learning environment works just as well inside and outside the classroom walls. If content is free, whats your value? How do we reframe knowledge and make it purposeful and relevant? The Zone of Proximal Development suggests we need to develop collaboration. The great the knowledge and greater the zone.

So how to reframe education? One framework is Challenge Based Learning (CBL). It has a familiar feel to it (and relates a lot I guess to the design process and PBL) but sets out a strong structure to position knowledge in a process where learning is the driver:

Framework CBL.JPG

John critiqued the tendancy to teach to the middle. He demonstrated this with a couple of graphs that hit close to home. No student is average; any institution that is based on average is doom to fail. Todd Rose talks about this more in his TED talk:

Another way of visualising this is through the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who argues there is a space for optimal learning when challenge and skills are balanced. This argues once again for a personalised learning approach:

Fundamental flaw of the education system is that we still can’t meet all the individual learning needs. But John Couch’s ABC’s could help!

  • Access
  • Build
  • Code


The keynote wasn’t full of anything that was remarkably new or controversial to my thinking and philosophy. However, what it gave me was ammunition. It contain language and examples that will be powerful to use in my journey. The overall message seemed to be that we need to move beyond education and unleash learning. And I am very excited about this.

uLearn16 – Transformers! Teachers in disguise!

Transformers! Teachers in disguise!

By Christine Wells and Christine Emery

We’ll share experiences of transformative leadership; how mentoring helps grow leadership skills. We’ll highlight how we support and grow leaders to extend engagement and achievement. A department goal is to encourage colleagues to try new technologies. Our mission is to transform our department by supporting leadership and agency. We’ll discuss how research is being used to mentor leadership development. Measurement of our leadership approach, and how we enhance it, will be explained. We want our department to experiment, be creative, and fail forward comfortably. Examples will be included.

Google Slides and Google Site. Presentation was mainly focused around tools with a surface level philosophy sitting underneath it. The presenters offered a 12 step 12-stepprogramme for transformational teaching. Using tools doesn’t transform teaching on it’s own and it is unclear whether this is innovation, or simply substitution. Where is the agency? The students’ voices?

The questions shared on the right have potential to develop some reflection. But if we were talking about true innovation, much more time would be spent on the vision. How to create the conditions for students to transform their learning.

Some tools mentioned could be worth investigating further:

This was a tool based presentation, and I don’t see it as having a strong sense of transformational pedagogy. It did contain a great quote:

You don’t motivate people by saying you must – you motivate by providing meaning and challenge.

From the google site:

Bass defined transformational leadership in terms of how the leader affects followers, who are intended to trust, admire and respect the transformational leader. He identified three ways in which leaders transform followers:
  • Increasing their awareness of task importance and value.
  • Getting them to focus first on team or organisational goals, rather than their own interests.
  • Activating their higher-order needs.

uLearn16 – Digital Assessment and Quality Assurance

Digital assessment and quality assurance — responding to rapidly changing technology and adapting pedagogy for assessment in the 21st century

By Alan Sorensen

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s (NZQA) role is to ensure that New Zealand qualifications are accepted as credible and robust, nationally and internationally, in order to help learners succeed in their chosen endeavours and to contribute to New Zealand society. NZQA is committed to providing the highest quality service to our clients with every interaction, and we’ve been thinking about what kind of organisation we want to be, and where we go next.

A huge relief of a breakout here. The presentation went through a number of changes that NZQA are undertaking in terms of moderation and assessment. The changes demonstrate they understand the movement to

  • 1280px-new_zealand_qualifications_authority_logo-svgModeration plans are now turned over to the school – giving teachers the power to determine what standards they get moderated. Brilliant for responding to the changing ways of our classroom and give the power back to the teacher to seek support where they need it.
  • The movement towards digital evidence seems to be unsupported by the sector at this stage. I’m shocked that only 5% of materials submitted in the last year was digital, but an estimated 50% of assessment work is now digital. Stop printing out the work! Be reasonable secondary teachers!
  • Internal moderation tool to help teachers collaborate online and discuss assessment decisions. Amazing stuff.

So reassuring to hear such exciting news from NZQA. They seem to be on board with new approaches to learning and are listening to the sector. MOE you are next.