#IMMOOC 4. Brewing The Magic Potion

Image Sourced From: www.quirkbooks.com

Image Sourced From: www.quirkbooks.com

For nearly five years now I’ve been responsible for creating and delivering professional development sessions for colleagues. Of course, I’ve also attended a large number of such “learning opportunities” which have varied from the woeful to the inspirational. There are some great presenters out there but often it’s more performance than substance.

I know the “fire hose method” doesn’t work … you know those one-off occasions where you blast the 75 people in the room with frantic content delivery in the hope that at least someone is knocked off their feet. Earlier this year I was asked by Australian Teacher Magazine to write a Help Desk article on running great technology PD sessions.  I’m utterly convinced that “fixing the current PD model” is akin to brewing a magic potion.

“Am I about to give you the ultimate secret to success? No, if I had that, I would be bottling and selling it.” (You can find the full article in Volume 14, Issue 7, July 2016)

I did identify five key considerations for developing worthwhile PD … terminology, scheduling, content, engagement and alternatives. Part III of The Innovator’s Mindset identifies the need to provide teachers with personalised, targeted and engaging professional learning. This learning has to be (… and I love this idea, thanks George) about moving each individual from ” … their Point A to their Point B.” This, I’m convinced, has been the missing ingredient in my magic potion. I also believe that I am my own worse enemy and I admitted this in the ATM article.

“There is no value in you rushing on to the next “cool tool” when participants are still creating an account for the previous one. In my passion for technology and sharing what I have learned, I too often forget that others won’t necessarily keep up with me.”

And for now … time to get back to the cauldron! One day I’m going to be a very rich man.

PS: And remember … If you haven’t yet seen my #IMMOOC meme


#IMMOOC 3. What If …

This will be a brief, ultra concise, exact blog post. (Probably didn’t need to say that!) Despite being on a well deserved term break, the weather has largely been vile and so I’ve been doing my best to keep up with the latest from George et. al. I particularly enjoyed Episode 3 featuring the hyped-up-hard-to-ignore Kaleb Rashad. My educational bucket list certainly includes a visit to a Hi-Tech High campus (hint, hint Kaleb.)

Image Sourced From: http://www.neonmfg.com/dream-big/

Image Sourced From: http://www.neonmfg.com/dream-big/

I have long proclaimed the importance of mindset before skill set … and yet there are those who continue to “teach as they were taught” (in the 1970s no less) The homework for this week was to dive into George Couros’ What If “process” which aims to

“… dream big and to figure out what is important for you and your educational organisation as you move forward.” (The Innovator’s Mindset, p. 117)

My response takes the form of a Haiku Deck; it’s always great to visit an old favourite. Why not try a little What If – ing of your own. Or, leave a comment on my attempt. (I always respond)

What Ifs – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

#IMMOOC 2. It’s Time to Starbucks Your School

When I was a teenager (just after the last Ice Age) I attended a well established all boys college in Hobart, Tasmania. I’ll pause briefly whilst some of you look Hobart up on Google Earth. That school has now entered its second century and it remains little changed in appearance or, I suspect, pedagogy. By contrast, the school where I’m currently employed is about to embark on a million dollar refurbishment of its oldest classrooms. As the eLearning Manager I’ve been involved in the design process. Come 2017 I will have the opportunity to teach in tech-ed up, glass enclosed, re-configurable learning spaces. Yes, we will have 85 inch interactive panels on the walls, funky “learniture” and numerous writable surfaces. Yes, some of you are envious. Will it all lead to innovation and improved student learning? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.

As George Couros rightly points out in Part One of The Innovator’s Mindset, innovation is certainly not specifically about technology or stuff in general. I’ve long accepted that the most significant tool in any teacher’s kitbag is in fact their mindset. If my colleagues go into those new learning spaces next year with an old, fixed mindset then the school might as well have just saved the money. Indeed, some of you might still be wondering about the cost effectiveness of a million dollar refurbishment. George, as en pointe as ever, notes that Starbucks embraced the need to change and survived whilst Blockbuster didn’t and, well … went bust. We do live in an era of education where “innovate or die” has to be our unshakeable motto.

Image Sourced from www.brandextenders.com

Image Sourced from www.brandextenders.com

It would seem that the Starbucks “lesson” is gaining wider acceptance as an analogy for the current situation in education.  I recently read two excellent online posts which I’ve hyperlinked immediately below.

http://www.focus2achieve.com/blog/2016/6/2/starbucks-my-classroom-project-the-master-plan (by Oskar Cymerman @focus2achieve)

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-01-why-the-21st-century-classroom-may-remind-you-of-starbucks (by edsurge.com columnist Kayla Delzer)

I enjoy a good coffee, like all teachers it runs through my veins, but I’m also keen to lead a move to Starbucks My School. For me, Part One of The Innovators Mindset has one resounding key word … empathy. That particular trait is all about building relationships, about “knowing who you serve.” When a customer walks into a Starbucks, the counter assistant never says “I don’t care what you want to order, you’re being given a half-double-decaffeinated-half-caff.” (Nods to Steve Martin in LA Story.) So, finally I arrive at this week’s prompt … what sort of school would I build? I would build the school that my customers demand.

Image "borrowed" from www.pinterest.com

Image “borrowed” from www.pinterest.com

PS: A song for this week … “You Can Foam Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Macchiato

#IMMOOC 1. Est ad docendum , ad novationem

I’m guessing many of you may have become lost somewhere in the midst of my title. So, I best explain. The hashtag will be used for George Couros’ MOOC based on his exceptional text The Innovator’s Mindset. (Surely there’s nothing wrong with massaging the ego of the man who will be handing out prizes!) As for the Latin; I studied it at school and still use it in my daytime job as a teacher of Ancient Studies. (At night I’m a ninja; really!)

How Many Selfies Would Narcissus Take? Sourced from Pinterest; originally pinned by www.debbiecharles.com

How Many Selfies Would Narcissus Take?
Sourced from Pinterest; originally pinned by www.debbiecharles.com

Est ad docendum, ad novationem (if you believe Google Translate) means To teach is to innovate. I do know that the Latin word innovare had a distinctly different meaning; to renew, alter or make new again. We all think of innovation as something wholly new but surely in education the renewal idea is just as significant. When I started teaching in 1981 (yep, that long ago) innovation took the astonishing form of Post It Notes and the Commodore 64 computer … Sweet! Thirty years later the very first iPad was released and a teaching career that was close to ending was renewed. In the years since I’ve learned how and why to innovate. Yes, I’m often still teaching about Caesar, Alexander or the pyramids (nothing new there) but in new ways … the learning experiences I design aim to realise the “Mantra of the Innovative Educator.”

So, I must have acquired a whole lot of new skills. Yes, I’m now a Digital Learning Leader and I can “wield a mean iPad” but the true change has been in my mindset. As George says early in his text, it’s all about “ … a way of thinking that creates something new and better.” (p. 19) The mindset of the teacher is the most significant tool in any classroom. #IMMOOC starts this coming weekend so it’s not too late for you to register at immooc.org

Checking For A Pulse

“Let’s be honest now and admit it – we all feel lazy sometimes when we have to write a blog …” (from professional blogger Tom Jager)

This will only be my fourth blog post of the 2016 school year; I haven’t just been lazy but more so comatose. “Write a blog post” was added to my To Do List back in June, so you can see why I am regularly checking for a pulse. That’s something I haven’t done since my son was a teenager. It’s certainly not that I have nothing to say, I always have a lot to say. So, what has been the problem?

This printable To Do List (https://invincibleinc.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/printable_todo_list/) is clearly missing a NEVER column.

This printable To Do List (https://invincibleinc.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/printable_todo_list/) is clearly missing a NEVER column.

I think I finally have an answer. The mere fact that so many schools have an eLearning Manager (I only use this because “Full Time Multi-Tasking Tech Ninja” is not an actual job title. Note to self, must get that on a T-Shirt) is an admission of failure. If the much hyped Digital Education Revolution had succeeded, I should be back teaching History full time. More on that later. The reality is that I’ve become an actual “Jack of all (Tech) Trades” and consequently master of none. I frequently research tools for colleagues, trial them, pass on the key information and … repeat! I regularly visit classrooms to troubleshoot tech problems. My role has led to me having a little bit of knowledge about 100s of tools but few that I have mastered.

Given the necessary authority (… All Hail Imperator Simonus,) I would be insistent upon all teachers having the same digital toolbox. This would comprise six or eight tools that every teacher masters and uses in their classroom. We are forever reading about standardised tests and general capabilities for students. Surely this standardisation should also extend to the digital capabilities of teachers. But I already know the type of objections I would hear, “I’m a Maths teacher, why do I need to know how to screencast?” I know because I actually received this comment.

This term I have returned to teaching an Ancient Studies class and I’m far from comatose there; it looks more like caffeine fuelled hyperactivity. I suspect it is in part about using technology to increase the engagement of students with whom I’ve built a personal relationship. My first moves into technology came out of a passion to improve my teaching … if only you could teach passion to others! Still, like all good emperors, I will continue to build my empire,  protect the citizens and repel the barbarians at the gate. But, for now, I’m off to cross this post of my list. Another post soon … maybe!

I know it's Vespasian ... But I can see the resemblance.

I know it’s Vespasian … But I can see the resemblance.

Bite-Sized Professional Learning

As some of you would already know, I made a “tree change” last year and headed to the Barossa Valley. As the new eLearning Manager in my school, one of my first initiatives was to set up a fortnightly “newsletter” in the form of a Weebly created site. Each issue contained five items; no more and no less. There was, what I believed to be, an appropriate mix of topics; the latest theory or trend, new apps, video tutorials and a regular “How To…” column. This was an attempt to give teachers the opportunity for some regular professional learning “at leisure.” All the feedback was positive and I saw no reason not to continue in 2016.

For Weebly Pro Users there is the opportunity to access detailed analytics of your website traffic. In the first term this year I noticed that the readership of the newsletter had fallen away dramatically; to as little as five percent of the teaching staff. I wasn’t particularly miffed but did want to know the reasons for the drop-off. I brought up the matter at a committee meeting and I was certainly bemused by the three reasons I kept hearing in various forms …

  1. “People are tech-weary, we’re sick of hearing about it all the time.”
  2. “Your newsletter took too long to read; sometimes it was 15 or 20 minutes.”
  3. “I would have been more likely to read it as a print out.” (Seriously, a printed eLearning Newsletter!)

To me they each seemed like a version of that same old excuse which has long made me bypass miffed and go straight to “bl**** angry.” It surely can’t be acceptable any longer to say “I haven’t got time for this.”


Pleasingly, it didn’t take me long to come up with an alternative; a Tip of the Week in poster form, created in the excellent Piktochart. (Hell, people can even print it if they want to!) I really enjoy the design process and so I’m happy to do this … in that sense at least. But seriously, how effective can it be to deliver bite-sized professional learning!

*If you would like to use or just check out my first two tips, just use the links below:



Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.28.37 PM

Consulting The Oracle

So, after a two month hiatus (love that word) it’s time to blog again. Hopefully, this will put paid to the rumours that I celebrated Christmas by systematically visiting all 127 Cellar Doors in the Barossa Valley. Such a lie; I’m only just up to the letter P.

Later this year I will be speaking at the Education Nation conference in Sydney … here’s the proof.Education Nation

The title of my Day One presentation is “Have We Just Made Everything Worse? Technology in Our Schools.” Although the event itself is still three months away, I’m sure the organisers will be glad to hear that my planning is well under way. Indeed, one aspect of that planning is to put into words in this post a half formed idea that I had recently. There is a genuine risk that some of you will immediately label me as the poster boy of the lunatic fringe … but here goes. I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback.

At the start of the school year this past January, our Faculty Head of Religious Education (the programme is now called LIFE) was addressing the full teaching staff about changes to the subject including the new soubriquet (Ooh, I like that even more than hiatus!) He began with this quotation:

“One might define spirituality as the search for connectedness and meaning …”

I’m certain that regular readers here know how much I write about and indeed value connectedness. We hear frequently about Internet and device addiction; in fact, a major Adelaide radio station recently ran what they termed a “digital detox” for parents and their “addict” children. And then, the proverbial penny dropped. Is the connection that so many of us now feel to our mobile devices really a form of spirituality? So much of what we do online is about “… searching for connectedness (think Facebook or any other social networking site) and meaning (think Google or indeed any web browser.) In an era where organised religion is frequently shunned by young people, have they turned to the digital realm to find meaning and eternal life? Already, a significant number of companies are selling services which can continue your digital presence long after your death. For a sample of these you could visit www.thedigitalbeyond.com

Image Source www.media.npr.org

Image Source: www.media.npr.org

Walking away from that January meeting, I was chatting with another colleague about my idea. His reply was immediate … “You could be right, every time I go on Google I feel like I’m consulting the oracle.” Certainly it bears thinking about … what happens to my digital music library when I die? What about my photos? Will I still be connecting via this blog with teachers who aren’t even born yet? Will I be tweeting from beyond the grave using a service such as DeadSocial or LivesOn? (Their motto: When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.) For your sake, I hope not.

Simon The (Not Yet) Great

(#Bloggermore 26/26 … Well, really 16/26)

“You’re flight time through to Hobart is 54 minutes.”

So, that’s precisely how long I had to cobble together one final blog post for 2015. Of course, I really should write several 50 word posts in a desperate last-ditch attempt to meet my own blogging aim for this year. But I won’t, and next year there will be no silly, self-imposed challenges! I have been, like everyone involved in education, exceedingly busy but I’ve also had to factor in an interstate move, home renovations, a new school, a slightly demonic new puppy, sick relatives, very cold mornings, worsening arthritis, a rabid crow in our kitchen, dust storms and bushfires. However, you can rest easy; this post is not to warn you of the impending apocalypse … That’s just my life.

Of course, I’ve also had some “wins” along the way. This year I’ve found myself increasingly sought after as a writer for Australian Teacher Magazine, Fractus Learning and others. It’s simply brilliant to receive Christmas greetings like this one:

ATM Greeting

I’ve also compiled a fortnightly eNewsletter focusing on all things educational technology for my new colleagues, conducted professional learning sessions and even made a well received appearance as “Bad Santa” at the staff Christmas lunch. In many respects the real highlight was delivering my very first keynote address at the annual HTAWA State Conference in Perth. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I like nothing more than the sound of my own voice! Which brings me to my hopes for 2016 and my purpose in writing here. Put simply, I want to become a regular conference keynote speaker. I want to be “that guy” who educators want to listen to. I’ve been told many times that I am a humorous and engaging presenter but I’m simply not part of the “pro tour.” Unfortunately, too many conferences are still headlined by the same tired old people delivering the same tired old content in the same tired old manner. A few years back I recall reading an insightful tweet about a disappointing keynote:

“Blah, blah, blah … Sign my cheque. Blah, blah, blah … Take me back to my five star hotel.”

Now, I’ve got the old and tired bit covered but how do I get a headline gig? I’m not Sir Ken Robinson so I can’t expect the mega bucks but I do have over three decades of genuine classroom experience and my own variety of home spun wisdom. The voice of education needs to be genuine, not a rehearsed, overpriced routine.

I am most certainly excited about the enormous possibilities of the Education Nation conference which will take place in Sydney during June next year. (You can find all the details at www.educationnation.com.au) I am delighted to be part of the Advisory Team that will help shape this conference “by teachers, for teachers.”

Check out the details!

Check out the details!

There’s also a good chance that I’ll take the stage at some time during the two days; after all, I am dropping regular hints. But, that’s not enough; I want more opportunities to put myself out there, to help shape education in Australia and worldwide. Yes, even worldwide. If you’re a megalomaniac you might as well go the whole way; I only have a few years left to match the empire building of my hero Alexander! So, if you’re organising some teacher training sessions or a conference; use the contact form on this site to bring me onboard. I don’t have a set “rate” but I know it will be reasonable. I don’t even expect a 5 star hotel, I’m prepared to slum it in a 4 star. Oh hell, let’s just admit it; if all else fails I’ll also consider offers to resurrect Santa.


Reconnecting With Connectedness

(#Bloggermore2015 15/26)

I have long been fascinated with the idea of connectedness. I have written about it previously on this blog and also penned an article on Global Connections for Australian Teacher Magazine in August 2013. It is no coincidence that this blog is called The Connected Teacher or that @connectedtchr is my Twitter handle. Recently, I have “reconnected” with the entire concept after coming across an article referencing the new book “The Relevant Educator” from Steven W. Anderson and Tom Whitby.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 3.25.10 PM

I am fortunate to have met both Steven (he of the bow ties) and Tom (invariably in Hawaiian prints), albeit fleetingly, at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta. I also attended a session conducted by Steven with his other long time collaborator, Kyle Pace. No surprise, the idea of connectedness (and how to achieve it) was also high on the agenda there. Of course, in October each year, the USA celebrates “Connected Educator” month whilst Australia is busy focusing on Oc-sober. (Probably says something significant!)

In “The Relevant Educator” the authors identify the 8 tenets of being a connected educator. For Steven and Tom, these teachers maintain educational relevance by …

1. Practicing and modelling lifelong learning 2. Viewing failure as part of the process of learning 3.  Sharing and collaborating 4. Connecting with other educators 5. Putting relevance ahead of doctrine. 6. Exploring the possibilities of technology 7. Employing this technology to personalise professional learning and 8. Using technology to learn and teach

I would like to think that I model most of the eight but that connectedness requires many hours, huge energy and has left my life “out of balance.” It would seem to me that there is a real need for schools to start employing what I have decided to call digital specialists. These specialists could be employed to deal exclusively with numbers 6-8 on the above list and to craft digital resources on demand. They would act as an intermediary (and filter) between time poor classroom teachers and the ever expanding digital world. Would your school be prepared to invest money in such specialists?

In the interim, here’s an infographic summary of “The Relevant Educator” which was created by yours truly (the digital specialist) using Piktochart and with the permission of Tom and Steven. As always, please feel free to use this resource in your own writing or presentations.


(#Bloggermore2015 14/26)

And so boldly I launch into the second half of my self-imposed blogging challenge (I know, I know, it’s October!) On this occasion I want to reference two great posts that I’ve read recently; one from Guy Trainin (@tgite) and the other from the Matt Esterman (@mesterman) “Museum.” In his post “The two emotions that matter when we ask educators to integrate technology,” Guy identifies four teacher responses to the introduction of technology. The powerful graphic below identifies these responses:

The Four Teacher Responses (Sourced from the Guy Trainin blog hyperlinked above)

The Four Teacher Responses (Sourced from the Guy Trainin blog hyperlinked above)

Guy emphasises the fact that there is an imbalance between the excitement and apprehension. He suggested that 90% of the educators that he was working with were part of the “Gung Ho” and “Careful Enthusiasm” groups. Whilst I agree that it’s these two groups that we need to cultivate and keep in schools, I suspect that eParalysis is more widespread than we would want to admit. On a daily basis I see teachers unable (or is it unwilling) to complete the most rudimentary IT tasks. This, I believe, is infringing the “digital rights” of students. (*You might like to read my 2014 article from Fractus Learning on these student rights. It is, rather cleverly, called “Declaring the Digital Rights of Students.”)

image from www.emaze.com

eParalysis image from www.emaze.com

On a related matter, I also read Matt Esterman’s post “Dropping the e” in which he argues, eruditely and convincingly as always, for removing the e from eLearning. Whilst I frequently read Matt’s “My Mind’s Museum,” this was an occasion when I felt compelled to also post a comment. Naturally, to make sense of my comment, you will need to read Matt’s post first! And no, I’m not being paid for driving traffic to his blog. Here’s what I had to say …

“I too have a cheque book … somewhere. We are in an era where the “screenagers” we teach have a new, ever evolving relationship with their devices. Some argue, I suspect quite rightly, that the device has become an extension of self. For older teachers (I’m an exception) technology is valued primarily as a time saver, for how it can improve our own work life. I detest the labels, most especially “21st Century Learning” … it’s just learning. But the majority will want to keep that damn “e” because they view it as other learning, a different process. My greatest frustration remains the paralysis that overcomes so many when asked to employ technology as a means of accelerating, enhancing or redefining learning.”

Of course, as always, I would welcome your comments. (Alternatively, leave one for Guy or Matt … neither of them suffer from eParalysis and will therefore reply.)