Coding, Coaching, Constantinople, Celebrity and Cassata

So, it’s the second last day of Term One and this is my very first blog post for the year. I could make all the usual excuses but you probably all live them too! Once again I’ve come up with a somewhat elusive title for this post but I now consider that a duty to my long suffering readers. We hear a great deal about the 4 Cs; the four characteristics of “21st Century Learning” (hate that term!) and of course the 4 Cs of diamonds (can’t afford them on a teacher’s wage!)  But now, let me take you through my 5 Cs of the past 11 weeks…

Coding: This year has seen the introduction of the compulsory Digital Technologies course in Year 8 and I’m one of the “truly fortunate” who get to teach it. The one lesson I’ve learned (frequently) is that the students have a lot to learn. The proliferation of digital devices has seen the irresistible move from “knowledge economy” to “user economy.” In just week two or three I discovered that I had a room full of students who didn’t know (or care) how the internet worked as long as they could keep using it. We made the internet out of cardboard, styrofoam, pegs, Lego, Play Doh, cable ties, string and straws… and moved on to coding. Surely they would all know some basic coding right! Wrong! Suddenly we were back writing algorithms to make toast with jam. We’ve done some basic work now in Pencil Code and Scratch but there’s a long (potholed) road ahead. Probably should mention that they also knew nothing about cloud storage or GUIs or binary …

Please; get serious!
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Coaching: As many of you know, I do like a good title and this year I’ve transitioned from eLearning Manager to Digital Advisor: Teaching and Learning. (Nice huh!) I’ve long struggled with finding the best mode of delivery for staff professional learning. Consider that dilemma solved … in 2017 I am available one lesson each day for 1-1 Peer Coaching in digital technologies. My colleagues have certainly taken to the idea of “Book a Session with Simon” as I’ve provided over 30 hours of personalised PD on a diverse range of topics. Why does it work? Because, as George Couros points out in his excellent book “The Innovator’s Mindset” … it’s all about moving teachers from “their Point A to their Point B.

Constantinople: Where did much of my free time go this term? In reading (twice) the exceptional history of the “Ghost Empire” by Richard Fidler. Yes, I’m a technology geek and a History nerd. So (for Aussie readers) as Molly used to say, “do yourself a favour” and buy this thoroughly engrossing book. You might even want, as I did, to revisit the D.A.A.S. on YouTube. Yep, it’s that Richard Fidler who hung out with Paul McDermott and Tim Ferguson. This link will take you to some of their great Big Gig performances.

Celebrity: Last month, at the request of Criterion, I made a flying visit to Sydney to present at their conference, Improving STEM Education. I was afforded the opportunity to speak about “Creating a School Makerspace.” Below you’ll find a link to the SlideShare version of my presentation:

But, you ask, why celebrity? As I left the stage I was met by a Twitter follower who proclaimed is delight in meeting me face to face and added, “I’m a fan.” So, there you have it … I have a fan, just the one and I’ve met him!

Cassata: My greatest success this term … making good on my promise to make each Year 12 student in my home room a cake, by request, on their birthday. Lane wanted cassata and it was well received. That’s one down and six to go. Next up, lemon meringue pie.

#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:

Image Sourced From:

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 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

How Many Selfies Would Narcissus Take?
Sourced from Pinterest; originally pinned by

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