uLearn17 – Brad Waid

Keynote #2 – Engaging the “globally” connected student of today

Technology is changing – but not for the first time:

The key questions posed by Brad, as collected by Jo Robson in this blogpost were:

What are kids learning? Where are they learning? What is our role? Are we changing? How are we connecting with our 21st century learners? What is happening when the students leave the classroom? What are they sharing? Would they share what we are teaching? The role of educators is changing, yet have and are we actually changing?

Brad enthusiastic shared futurist visionary videos and personal anecdotes. He suggested a framework to help change the world, to make a difference to young students in education: RULE(e)

  • Relationships – a key driven behind learning (like here)
  • Understanding – what unites us is stronger than what divides us (like here)
  • Learning – fail…fail…fail…success (felt Karen
  • Environment – flexibility is key
  • (e)xpression – SHARE!

Several videos were shown through the presentation and there was a clear futurist lean to them. While the below wasn’t the video shown – it certainly does help capture current socialnomics trends:

Takeaways and Observations

  • Like Eric Mazur, a key theme that emerged was that the learning relationship is more important than the tool. 
  • We can leverage the technology for some really great outcomes – one example was Pokemon Go and the way that it go people active and outside. 
  • Comparison has been drawn with Kevin Honeycutt‘s keynote. I went back into my archives and found some of the gems I recorded in 2012:
    • “It’s a beautiful time to be a human being. Anything is possible”
    • “Even good kids will do stupid things if no one is watching: They need us on our digital playground”
    • “A student that asks ‘why do I need to know this?’ is asking a legitimate question!”
    • “How can we make it OK to invent? Do we have a culture that can sustain invention?”
    • “If we all we are doing it to prepare students to pass tests then what is the point? We are just building middle managers.”

uLearn17 – Eric Mazur

Keynote #1 – Innovating education to educate innovators

Eric Mazur keynote (collaborative notes) was a story that captured his journey from being under the illusion that he was the best Physics lecturer to someone that reformed his approach to teaching.


As a Physics lecturer at Harvard, Eric was repeating the teaching style that he had experienced as a student. Transmitting knowledge by lecturing to the class. He told humourous stories of approaching teaching with a textbook such as finding a textbook that was out of print so the students couldn’t just teach themselves from their own copy. If you have the same textbook as the students, what do you teach them? If you are just going to hand out the lecture notes at the end of the class, what was the point of the class?


Learning, he proposed, is a two step process:

  1. Transfer of information
  2. Assimilation of that information

For example, the keynote transferred information, and the dialogue I had with colleagues after the presentation and the writing of this blogpost is an opportunity to assimilate that information. The assimilation is the hard part, but it’s the part that gets the least attention. How can we shift our pedagogy to focus more on assimilation. The curse of knowledge is that once you understand something it’s hard to remember the difficulty of learning it. His framework is displayed on the right. It is explained fully in this blog.  The learning takes place in the discussion phase.

At times I found myself wandering into a cynical state of mind listening to these ideas. I was listening for innovation, but all I heard was the learning process being broken down into a simple understandable formula. These moments were quickly challenged by reflection on my own classroom as I realise how little assimilation space I’m providing. Eric’s ideas seems simple because they should be. However, the default is transmission, and too often do I revert back to this. I feel very enlivened by Eric’s ideas and also confident that this is going to make a big impact on my practice.

Takeaways and Observations

  • If you are explaining something on the board – you aren’t engaging with your students. Face them.
  • Relationships again affirmed. Emotional engagement in the learning another key theme.
  • Mentimeter is a tool to help facilitate the framework; perusall is the platform Eric suggested.
  • How much are students dependent on a correct answer for emotional investment in a question? How do open ended questions fit in the framework? And most importantly: what skills do students need to be able to actively engage in this way?

uLearn17 Preparation

In the past I’ve found it really useful to synthesise lots of information about the upcoming conference through preparing this kind of blogpost (see uLearn15 and uLearn16). It develops my prior knowledge giving me the opportunity to get more out of the conference. This is just a post to process some of the prior information about the keynotes and key threads to get me in the zone. I’m doing this in a self-beneficial way but something might be interesting here – the preparation for ulearn16 post that Anne Kenneally put together is a much better general audience resource.

Conference Themes

  • Connect: Sharing knowledge and ideas
  • Collaborate: Working together and developing relationships
  • Innovate: Innovation and sustainability

Conference Strands

  • Learning digitally / Te ako ā-matihiko
  • Learning in communities / Te ako ā-hapori
  • Learning for success / Te ako kia angitu


The four keynotes this year have a range of exciting topics and perspectives to share:

Eric Mazur – Innovating education to educate innovators

I will show how shifting the focus from delivering information to team work and creative thinking greatly improves the learning that takes place in the classroom and promotes independent thinking.

Eric Mazur has a long successful history of promoting ‘interactive teaching’ or ‘peer instruction’. His website contains some previous keynotes which all link back to these themes. He is part of a team that developed Learning Catalytics, “an interactive student response tool that encourages team-based learning by using students’ smartphones, tablets, or laptops to engage them in interactive tasks and thinking.” It would be great to see this approach modelled in a uLearn keynote!

Dr Ann Milne – Colouring in the white spaces: Cultural identity and community in whitestream schools

She will challenge us to find and reflect on the white spaces in our own thinking and practice, and to actively work towards changing them.

I had the pleasure of reading Dr Ann Milne‘s book “Coloring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools” recently and was absolutely blown again by the ideas in it. She talks extensively about colonisation, white privilege, systemic racism and has a very practical approach to changing things. The video below (plus a companion blogpost) and the her Q&A with Core Education give context to where Milne’s thinking is at. I’m expecting her keynote will lay down a real challenge to the NZ teaching profession.

Brad Waid – Engaging the globally connected student of today: A look at emerging technology, gaming and digital citizenship

Brad pushes us to look at the engaging factors students are faced with on a daily basis and how to leverage them in a learning context.

Brad Waid is a futurist with lots of experience with technology and education. His website shares some impressive achievements, recognising his leading thinking and ideas around technology and education integration. It is exciting for me to read about his interest in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality as this year is the first time I’ve been exploring using immersive technologies in my Media Studies classroom. I’m interested in how his ideas might align or challenge Richard Watson’s book Digital Vs Human.

Abdul Chohan- Changing belief: Apple technology in the classroom

Abdul will discuss how the transformational redesign of learning with Apple technology has been essential for the success of every student and wider community.

The 4 minute video below captures Abdul Chohan’s educational perspective, which is clear through his journey of turning around ESSA Academy.  The story of what they achieved through mobile based learning is captured in this article and this conference presentation. To me the story speaks of the democratising power of technology and the importance of access in order to achieve equity. I’m interested in what angle Chohan brings to uLearn and how the story might be different for schools in 2017.


Peer Tutoring

This year as the Year 13 Dean, I’ve accidentally stumbled into the Peer Tutoring programme. Due to staffing for our weekly wa ako – learning to learn – periods, I’ve ended up running sessions on how to be a peer tutor. While some useful things were covered (how to build a relationship with a younger peer, questioning strategies, and some learning theories) I still feel like I didn’t capitalise on this opportunity, and I wonder how well the school is capitalising on this programme. So I turned to the literature.

nzcer_peer20tutoring_cvrJesse’s Pirini‘s book Peer Tutoring: A Training and Facilitation Guide offered some insight into some of the areas to think about when evaluating the peer tutoring that is already happening at the school. The conclusion of his book brought together the research and claimed the following as the most important in successful peer tutoring:

  • Strong, meaningful relationships between educators and students
  • promoting student agency through helping students to explore their thinking
  • setting goals by imagining a better future and then considering present obstacles
  • improving metacognitive competencies through peer interaction (73).

These four areas are reinforced by literature and provide a framework for supporting peer tutors. One of the cautions of approaching peer tutoring without a framework is it will be done the way people assume it should be done. “Often, this ‘natural’ approach reinforces an instrumental test and exam focus” (72). The shift is to make our tutors focus on the learning.

For this they need strong relationships and effective strategies. It was heartening to read about the reinforcement of relationships as the backbone to learning: “higher level thinking relies on basic emotional needs having already been met…A strong tutoring relationship underpins successful tutoring” (7). Pirini also drew on the idea of a tutoring toolbox – a collection of strategies to support student learning. The toolbox contain strategies such as:

  • Demonstrate a process of exercise
  • Give the student a task to do
  • Identify a specific problem
  • Determine an initial course of action
  • Contextualise a specific task within a bigger picture
  • Describe a basic process
  • Ask a deep explanatory question
  • Assess prior knowledge
  • Give specific descriptive framework

These strategies might naturally occur in a classroom, but there’s a danger of assuming that tutors will have picked up on this.

One of the shifts I reflected on from reading the book was making the programme student centred. A case study examined in the book puts forward the idea of a senior student leadership team who administer the programme by matching students and running the publicity. The other shift for me was the importance of training that is robust and ongoing in order for a tutoring programme to be successful. It’s too dangerous to assume, and it’s too easy to miss the learning opportunity here. My hope is we can use some of the book’s ideas to support some developments on what is already a solid foundation.

Big Lessons from Little Things – Marc Wilson

This Victoria University alumni lecture from Marc Wilson caught my attention for it’s focus on adolescent well-being. This was a VUW inaugural lecture – a previous one I’ve attended from Victoria Green on bullying is reflected on here. I came away with a lot to reflect on – why I didn’t take psychology at University, and a range of information that I believe relates to teaching.

Wilson’s sprawling lecture began by working through the usual suspects of social psychology, which offered both a historic perspective on the learning area and an introduction to the types of the authoritarian (bad people do bad things), the new authoritarian (submit to authority or you should be punished), the machiavellian (unemotional and detached), the social dominant (hierarchy, structures, developed to maintain social dominance orientation) and the psychopath (limited empathy: primary – no fear of authority or punishment; secondary – impulsive [prisons largely full of secondary psychopaths]).  He made connections between personality types and attitudes towards vegetarianism noting the new authoritarian and the social dominant eat more meat and predominantly vote right wing. He made connections with prejudice, sexism and discrimination.

The point this came to was the importance of emotion. As people become older, they have less emotional recognition. Your social dominant orientation (SDO) can be used to predict your social and political attitudes, therefore: what is the role of educators in teaching empathy and emotional intelligence?

This is where Wilson connected his study of adolescent wellbeing, which has focused on self-harm. He asked: “why would people hurt themselves?” The EAM (below) helps to explain this, but the concerning part that Wilson expressed was how some youth find that self-harm works.


EAM source

Importantly, the study showed conclusively that teachers’ concerns that surveying students, or raising self-harm does not have a negative impact – self harming activity does not increase from talking about it.

Various findings from Wilson’s research were summarised – the sprawling nature of the work makes it difficult to summarise. The Youth Wellbeing Study site offers a brilliant hub of the research and the outcomes including some really lovely work with different media forms like graphic novels. I was left thinking about the important of more guidance education for teachers around this area. Teachers are the front line of these issues, perhaps even more so that parents because we are nearby for a lot of their in person peer-to-peer interaction. How informed are teachers about the latest thinking in this area? How capable are we of recognising a student in need? And do we understanding self-harm and suicide enough in order to have appropriate conversations around this which aren’t stigma-enforcing or harmful? The heart of the lecture was the importance of emotion – something we could all do with better understanding of.

eFellows17 – Hui #3

The CORE Education Dr Vince Ham eFellowship programme continued a couple of weeks ago with the third hui of 2017. I’m privileged to be one of seven teachers on this year long journey that will see us challenged and inspired as we all take on individual inquiries that will be presented at uLearn17. 2018 eFellowship applications are now open! Continuing the trend from my second hui and first hui summary, I’ll capture the journey with three ideas and three questions.


1. Kaurilands and Koru School

The opportunity to undertake school visits continues to be one of the most heart warming parts of this journey. We visited Kaurilands School and Koru School with Jo Robson, who has been supporting their development. Both are at various stages of implementing Innovate Learning Environments. Both came from strong passionate leadership and in both cases it was a real privilege to see the environments in action. I’ve seen Cashmere Ave School‘s ILE in action and was inspired by the attitudes to learning that this approach to agency encourages. In fact there is still learning from that trip I am still trying to implement into my practice. The main focus here was the shift and change process. This is where the themes of a shared vision, collaboration and communal values were so strong between the schools. The main takeaway for me was the importance of leading with the needs of your learners.

2. Agency Ladder

School ladder

Arnstein’s ladder of participation (adapted on the right by Adam Fletcher) was raised a couple of times over the hui. If “the pinnacle experience for children in organizational decision-making [is] to initiate action and share decision-making with adults” then is becomes vital to create inclusive environments. Can genuine agency be achieved without equity? This appears to be a superb model to have on hand. Very adaptable.

3. Vulnerability

‘The Power of Vulnerability’ is a TED talk I remember seeing many years ago. Brené Brown raises some powerful ideas in here, not only an insight into humanity but also into the research process.



1. Thriving Schools

The highlight of the hui was the chance to connect with John Fenaughty, who has blazed a trail for sexuality and gender inclusive pedagogy. It was a honour to talk through my research with him, discuss the connections with his work and evaluate the state of NZ schools and their approach to gender and sexuality diversity. In a broad ranging chat I left pondering what does it take for a school to shift from coping with sexuality and gender diversity to thriving with sexuality and gender diversity?

2. Race and Gender

In the first eFellow hui, Alex Hotere-Barnes introduced me to the concept of “Pākehā paralysis” and in doing so really unlocked something in my thinking around this issue. My research has since stumbled across a different type of paralysis, a fear of action around issues of gender and sexuality. This has led me down a rabbit hole of thinking and discussion in trying to understand this more and this journey has stumbled across the concept of diversity inertia. I wonder how issues of gender and sexuality are connected to issues of race? Each area has very different and complex histories, but both contain themes of invisibility and marginalisation. How might there be a connection between the fear that teachers are experiencing and pākehā paralysis?

3. Student Voice

My research will soon seek to gather student voice from some consenting members of the classes taught by the teachers I am working with. At the beginning of the process I insisted that student voice much exist in this process and I still stand by this. However, I’m now re-evaluating this stance and trying to answer the question “what for?” I was reminded by this powerful post from Richard Wells where he examines putting the word “genuine” in front of “student-centred learning”. Is there a difference between student voice and genuine student voice? Am I seeking student voice in order to affirm what I already know? How can I gather their voice objectively if I have conclusions already in mind?

Some of this relates to the scope of my research and I can make changes accordingly, but the wider question lingers for me: when we make claims of collecting or using “student voice” to what end is it actually authentic?

Thriving in Complexity – Core Breakfast

Schools have often been forces of societal stability, preparing young people to take a defined and productive (and sometimes predetermined) role in society. Today’s schools, on the contrary, are being asked to prepare young people to enter a future world that we cannot even imagine. It’s hard enough for the adults in schools to cope with the uncertainty we face in the relatively near future; growing the school and societal leaders we need for the distant future is daunting indeed. In this session Jennifer Garvey Berger (Cultivating Leadership blog) offers a new way of thinking about uncertainty and some new tools to help us all grow more capable of coping with our complex world.

8a0d40377f3606f893c74d8a6074111bThis highly useful Core Breakfast set the scene by exploring the idea of complexity. Education is fast becoming more complex with digital technology a key driver. The quote from Mencken captures why this is important discussion. While the level of complexity for educators has grown dramatically, the landscape of schools hasn’t.

This is where Snowden’s Cynefin framework comes in – a ‘sense making device’. It is structured with four domains, over two sides: predictable and unpredictable. Schools are everywhere on the domain, so it can be used effective as an evaluation tool.


  • Obvious – known knowns – facts are known, cause and effect is visible, can rely on best practice
  • Complicated – known unknowns – need expertise, facts are contested but with analysis and research we can find an answer


  • Complex – unknown unknowns – cause and effect are in reverse. Cannot rely on what has happened before, need novelty, critical thinking and knowledge creation – leading people, culture change are complex. As Berger said “Good teaching is a complex endeavour that shifts and changes in the moment. It’s not something you can repeat.”
  • Chaos – cause and effect is unclear, the job is to stablize the system. “In this context, managers “act–sense–respond”: act to establish order; sense where stability lies; respond to turn the chaotic into the complex” – Snowden & Boone. Chaos creates innovation (i.e. Christchurch earthquakes)

Mind the gap (close the gap between current results and outcomes that you want), mind the system (nudge the system, watch its responses, be ready to respond). Three habits of mind to help us to thrive in complexity:

  • Ask different questions: increase curiosity. The future is not going to be like the past. Questions come from our general beliefs. Useful questions about what people are chatting about. Facts are way less important than what people believe.
  • Take multiple perspectives: taking other people’s perspectives to expand our own perspective. The truth we see is the truth – that is wrong. How can we listen to learn? Generally we listen to win, or listen to fix something, or listen to make something go away. In the unpredictable space, you don’t know the answer. Which people are you not listening to and learning from well enough? What might you learn if you listened harder?
  • See systems: notice the patterns and forces instead of the individual elements.

I’m left reflecting on the way this framework could be used. It might support teachers to understand change and to feel more comfortable with complexity. It certainly makes a useful tool for personal reflection and would support change management. Ultimately, the message I’m taking away is to be comfortable with complexity and how important it is to learn to live not in the predictable past, but instead in the unpredictable future.