C21 Teaching Mid-Semester Two Review

It has been some time since I posted a review of C21Teaching.com.au, so there are quite a few articles in this list. I hope the last two terms have been productive and successful for you and your students.

Don’t forget to visit C21Teaching to get the most up to date content.

#FlipConAdl 2017 Day One Review Part One

After attending a masterclass with Jon Bergmann (@JonBergmann) at FutureSchools in 2015 (review articles here) and the subsequent FlipConAus on the Gold Coast later that year (review articles here), I was excited to get to be attending this year’s Flipped Learning conference in Adelaide. It came at a good time for me personally, with the preceding few weeks having been very stressful for a number of professional and personal reasons. The storify of the leadup and day one of the event has been storified, which you can find here.

For me, the trip to FlipCon began with a train trip, a long wait (not to be confused with the long weight that many apprentices have been sent to get from the hardware store) at Sydney Airport with an overpriced lunch, a flight which involved a random conversation with the two passengers sitting in my row on the plane and then randomly running into Heather Davis (@misshdavis) and her entourage at the baggage collection. We all ended up going out for dinner together and it was a great way to get to meet some new people beforehand as well as being a nicer way of spending the evening than dinner alone and getting some work done in the hotel room.

The actual conference began with a welcome address from Val Macauly of organisers IWBNet and the Principal of hosts Brighton Secondary School, Olivia O’Neill.

Following Olivia was Rupert Denton (@rupertdenton) of Clickview who spoke about the need to make technology educational, rather than make education technological. It was an important distinction and one which he spoke passionately. It is, I have to admit, the only opening address that I have heard where the Cambrian Explosion and the Cambrian Extinction have been so seamlessly woven into the talk.

For those of you who have not heard of the Cambrian Explosion, it was a twenty to twenty-five million years period of time in which the vast majority of animal species originated. He likened the current period of educational technology  to that period of time as it seems that there is a new toy, app, gadget, tool or technological pedagogy emerging and becoming a favoured flavour every other day. There was competition for food (teachers to use the product), competition for resources (schools to use the product school-wide rather than a single teacher) and competition for growth (developers to create more apps, gadgets etc). The clear underlying message of Rupert’s address was captured succinctly.

Rupert exhorted delegates to critique the value of technology which purports to be educational and question what is it that makes it educational? If you follow Rupert’s analogy vis-a-vis the Cambrian Explosion to its logical conclusion, there must be a Cambrian Extinction event looming on the near horizon.

The distinction is important, as it feels like education is being made technological sometimes, rather than making technology educational. I hear complaints from colleagues both in my own school and from other schools that it feels like there have been more fads in education in the last five years than in the preceding ten, particularly as technology in our daily lives becomes more ubiquitous and companies realise that by promising much, they can sell even more. This sounds like a similar line of thought to the digital natives vs digital immigrants discussion to me. It should always, however, come back to the pedagogy and the good of the students’ learning.

After Rupert spoke, Jon Bergmann was up to deliver his keynote address. Before he did that, however, he mentioned that Battledecks (or PowerPoint Karaoke as it is called in my classroom) would be on again at the social event. Along with that, to ensure that everyone was up and fresh for the day, Jon also mentioned that he would be holding a FlipCon 5k event starting from Glenelg Pier the next morning.

It was good to catch up with Jon Bergmann again.


I have to admit that I was not sure how much value I would receive from hearing Jon speak. Not because I feel that I know everything about flipped learning, I most certainly do not, but because I had heard him speak about flipped learning on a number of occasions prior to this and I was not sure how much of what he said would be new. The initial stage of his keynote was mostly familiar content, however, the middle and latter stages held some new nuggets of ideas for me to consider. Jon spoke to the concern about replacing teachers with YouTube videos that is often levelled at flipped learning as a pedagogical strategy by reminding us that our value as teachers and professionals is not in our information dissemination but in our ability to analyse and deep dive on a subject with our students so that when they resurface, they have gained a new understanding for not just the surface understandings but the more nuanced subtleties of the topic or skill. I saw the below tweet by Jeff Atwood this morning and it resonated very strongly with me along this same theme.

Jon also defined some new terminology as a way of differentiating flipped learning from traditional pedagogical methods and to reframe the discussions around learning activities.

This shift in the framing language of flipped learning should also encourage a shift in thinking about the way in which time with our students is used. It is easy to add to students workload rather than replace the homework with individual learning tasks, however, that is not how we should be flipping, reminding us that flipped learning is not about the technology or the videos but about the reclaiming of our face to face time with students for more meaningful and deeper learning activities.

The reminder was given that we need to train our students as videos are often merely a source of entertainment and that flipped videos should be engaged with rather than just watched. The new tip (though obvious when said) was that we also need to invest in professional development for ourselves and colleagues when implementing flipped learning. I maintain a list of resources, articles and contacts to start out with flipped learning, however, you can now complete a Flipped Learning Certification course through the Flipped Learning Global Initiative.

Jon shared the top twelve mistakes that educators make and which get in the way of flipped learning success, beginning with lecturing when students have not watched the video. “Do not rescue them from that choice,” Jon told the audience. Making content too difficult or inconsistent to access is another. This last comment can be interpreted in a few ways. The literal interpretation is, I think, fairly clear. The other consideration, particularly in secondary and tertiary education, is that it is not too difficult insofar as students needing to remember a large number of access details with different faculties using a different learning management system. Keep it simple. Joel Speranza (@joelbsperanza) spoke about this during his masterclass at FlipConAus 2015 and reminded us that the learning management system does not even necessarily need to be technology based.

The next mistake Jon said he sees in flipped classrooms that do not work is that the teacher is not active in the classroom after flipping, that they sit at their desk and do not engage with students. This defeats the whole point of flipping a classroom. Following this was giving up too easily. This seems fairly straightforward, as any big change requires a period of acclimation for all those involved and flipped learning is typically a significant change in pedagogy. Another problem consistent in those classrooms where flipped learning does not work is that there is no interactivity in the ILS beyond any notes the student takes. It is important that there are engagement points to ensure that students are actively learning and processing what they are seeing and hearing. There is a range of tools that allow you to do this, such as Camtasia (my favourite), EdPuzzle, and Clickview to name a few.

Jon spoke about something that makes a lot of educators nervous and overly self-critical; making their own flipped learning content.

Peter Whiting (@Mr_van_W) has recently published a peer-reviewed action research study that examined the impact on student learning outcomes of using flipped learning content created by either their own teacher, a team teacher or an external third party (for example, Khan Academy). I attended Peter’s session where he spoke at length about the methodology, the results and the implications of the research project and I will discuss those findings and my thoughts on the implications in that article. There is a significant reason to create your own videos. You are their teacher and therefore the relationship is with you, no with Salman Khan or Mathantics or another provider.


That said, even if you do create your own videos but do not teach students how to watch engage with them, you are making another of the more common mistakes that Jon sees. Using a video to learn a concept or skill is significantly different to watching a movie or a music video and it is a skill that needs to be taught taking time appropriate for your context. Lower Primary students might need a number of weeks of learning to engage and reinforcement of how to engage, whilst upper Secondary students may only need one or two sessions.

Although it may seem obvious, not ensuring buy-in from key stakeholders is another common mistake that Jon sees worldwide. It is not just your Supervisors and Executive staff who need to buy-in, it is the parents and the students. One way of achieving this is to have your students and parents from this year record short messages talking about why they like flipped learning as a pedagogical approach. These can be stitched together to form a single video and serve as a hook for the sell to stakeholders.

However, the number one mistake that Jon sees internationally in contexts where flipped learning has not worked:

This comment gets to the crux of what flipped learning is about; the reclamation of class time for deeper and broader learning. If that time is not being used to go deeper and broader then it is not being used wisely.

Jon then spoke about the continuum of pedagogical strategies and posed that flipped learning sits in the middle of  teacher centred and student centred, providing a good balance between direct instruction and student-led constructivism. He reminded us that students do not know what they do not know and that our job as professionals is to guide them to ensure that they have the conceptual and skill knowledge

When being in the position of wanting to flip, but not knowing where to start, I would point you to my Starting Point for Flipped Learning page and remind you of how Jon finished his keynote:

If you have made it this far, thank you. I will aim to get the next article out in the next few days. Given the time of year, with everyone busy working on writing their end of year reports and a variety of other activities, I am sure my readers will be understanding of the delay.

Seizing Opportunities

“In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
– Attributed to Mark Zuckerberg

My regular readers will be aware of my proclivity for conferences. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to contribute to the Education Nation conference as a blogger and reviewer for the conference, which went well both in my own estimation and based on the feedback I was given from various quarters. On the back that experience, as well as already having submitted a speaker application for FutureSchools 2017 and not having attended EduTech in the past, I decided to send an e-mail to inquire about the possibility of attending EduTech 2017 under a media pass in order to review sessions, interview speakers and generally cover the event.


Lo and behold, the organisers accepted and I am now attending EduTech under a media pass. I am in the process of going over the speaker list to formulate a list of who I plan to either interview or hear speak. As part of growing EduTech, the organisers have launched their Ambassador program and have listed me as their first ambassador on their website. I am excited and looking forward to connecting with a range of educators from across the broader Education sector as well as reconnecting  with old friends.

EduTech 2017 will be held at the new International Convention Centre in Sydney (the old Sydney Entertainment Centre) on June 8 and 9 next year, with Masterclasses being held on June 7. If you are interested in going and would like 10% off the registration price, use code BRM10. Let me know through Twitter or my website contact form if you are going and you use the code. It would be great to meet up face-to-face.

In the meantime, if you have not read any of my conference review articles, please visit here to see the list and peruse to find something that catches your eye.

Education Nation | Post Event Musings

“I want to be the best version of myself for anyone who is going to someday walk into my life and need someone to love them beyond reason.”
Jennifer Elisabeth, Born Ready: Unleash Your Inner Dream Girl

Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.

I first heard of Education Nation sometime back in late February or perhaps early March when it received a mention during a Twitter chat. I had a look at the website and although it looked interesting, my professional development days and my (self-funded) budget had both been allocated for the year. Fast forward to FutureSchools (review articles here) and I received a response to a photo I put up on Twitter.

I thought, at first, that it was a cheeky plug for the Education Nation conference, but decided to send through an e-mail to follow it up. Imagine my shock when I was told that, yes it was  a genuine offer to attend and review the event. I am very glad that I did accept the offer. Learnings from the conference aside (and there were many), the opportunity to meet people face-to-face that I had been speaking to and knew from Twitter conversations for the first time was an exciting opportunity. Overall, however, the Education Nation was, in my view, a success.


The Venue
I do not think I can have a general wrap up from Education Nation without including the location. It was stunning. Day two provided better weather and a slightly warmer temperature than day one did. It 1made it very easy to go outside and enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air, to debrief from the sessions and recharge ready for the next one. The venue itself was interesting. The rooms utilised for the Rethinking Reform and Digital Dimensions streams were generally excellent. They had a good view without being distracting, the rooms had reasonable acoustics and the audio levels were set well to make the speaker easy to hear. The afternoon sessions were a little frustrating as the sun would digital-dimensionsreflect off the water through the windows at the back of the room, flooding it with light, which made taking photos during presentations difficult due to over-exposure. The hinges on the door into Digital Dimensions also sounded like the Tin Man anytime someone entered or left, which was rather frustrating mid-session.

the-leader-2The Leader, The Educator, and The Learner all had their own challenges. The Leader was in a terrible room if I am being honest. In comparison to the other locations, it was a dungeon. The run of windows in the room were situated at head-height, if you were standing up, but were at the level of the footpath outside, meaning all that could be seen was active wear in various guises running past, which meant it was a more distracting room than the others. The light levels were also horrible for taking photographs, and the room had odd lighting, making it feel dim. The physical structure of the room also created a very closed-in feeling.

3The Learner was in an echo chamber, or so it sounded. Additionally, the room seemingly had no climate control as I had heard people complaining about the temperature over the course of the event. The Educator was the last session of the conference and so the sun was quite low when during that session and so was in the delegates’ eyes, depending on where they were sitting, during that session. The view, however, was fantastic.

The signage could have been better. Each room did have a sign out the front indicating which one it was, however there needed to be a directional side immediately outside of the main rooms pointing to each of the other rooms, especially given that they were at opposite ends of the venue.

CaptureI did feel bad for the vendors, to a degree. The Playground was an awkward layout, with the mezzanine level taking up a fair chunk the floorspace, the main floor not being overly large, and with such a beautiful view on the deck outside. I had heard discussion from various quarters about the seemingly low attendee numbers, however, if there had been many more people in attendance, The Playground and food areas would have been very cramped and difficult to move around, and we would have seen more issues. I will not write further on The Playground here, as I have already written an article on it specifically.

The Speakers
For me, the speakers were generally very good. There were, of course, some whose sessions I enjoyed more than others, and there were a few speakers whose sessions I felt did not hit the mark, but on the whole. If you have read the previous articles reviewing those sessions I was able to attend. The feedback I had from the other streams was generally positive. The exception, however, was The Leader stream. From what I have heard, from multiple sources, other than two or three sessions the speakers in that stream generally missed the mark, were not speaking on the topic the abstract indicated they would be speaking on, were not engaging or delivered a lecture rather than a workshop.

One delegate in that stream that I was speaking with told me how that stream had been selected specifically as the one to attend as it fit right in with this delegates Professional Development Plan and the delegate had hoped to learn more about the mechanics of leading a school. The comment that I was given was that this delegate felt that overall it was a waste of time and the two professional development days he was allotted for the year were now spent and for no benefit. I encouraged this delegate to seek out one of the event organisers to give some specific feedback, more so than would be able to be provided on the feedback forms.

Other than that, however, I heard generally positive feedback on the speakers. Particularly enjoyed and seen as beneficial from what I heard were Brett Salakas, Corinne Campbell, Prue Gill and Ed Cuthbertson, The Hewes Family, and Leanne Steed and Elizabeth Amvrazis.

There is some expectation that the last session at a conference is typically poorly attended. I personally do not understand this. If you are investing significant money in an event, then you should be staying until the end to get maximum benefit from it. I know far too many people who have left conferences early to make a flight or train home. It is akin to leaving a concert before the house lights have come back on, or a movie before the end of the credits. That said, it was embarrassing to hear that no-one stayed for the final session of The Educator stream. I cannot imagine how Elizabeth Amvrazis and Leeanne Steed must have felt. I know how I would have felt


The Great Debate and other Themes
The Great Debate was one of the drawcard events, I feel, for Education Nation. Looking back, however, I do not feel that it achieved much. Noone’s mind was going to be changed on the issue. Many would have taken Dr. Zyngier’s side, irrespective of what he said, just to be opposed to Dr. Donnelly, it was and will always remain a divisive issue and as many people commented on twitter, and as both Dr Donnelly and Dr. Zyngier commented during the event, we need to move past this.

There were some interesting themes that came through over the course of Education Nation. If you have read any of the review articles, then you might have noticed some as well. The most significant theme, in my opinion, was the call for a genuine national conversation about the purpose and goals of education in Australia. It came through in most of the sessions I attended and in most of the conversations that I had outside the sessions. It was pointed out to me on Twitter that we have had a national conversation, which is where The Melbourne Declaration comes from. I disagree that it was a national conversation, however. It was a meeting of Education Ministers to develop a document that says some pretty things which sound nice. A national conversation, however? No.

I do not know how we would go about starting something like a national conversation that would have any sort of actual relevance and use, other than setting up a Change.org petition, however, which does not seem appropriate, or a Royal Commission of Inquiry,which seems like a vast overkill. I would very much like to hear feedback from my reads as to firstly, whether or they agree with the need for a national conversation about education, and secondly, what platform could or should be taken to get it started and get it, the need for it, and the results, taken seriously and listened to.

There were some other themes that came through, I thought. More needs to be done to work with the families and students in our low socioeconomic areas, we need to be more positive about teaching and recognise the successes we have more often, initial teacher education needs to be improved and strengthened to better prepare beginning teachers for their new career and to stem the personnel drain that occurs within the first five years of a teacher’s career and finally, we need to share more with each other about practices which are and are not working.

Would I attend Education Nation again? Yes. Is there room for improvement and streamlining? Of course.

If you have made it this far and have read all of the previous articles in the Education Nation series, well done and thank you for staying the journey. Now, I am off to finish writing my reports.


Education Nation | Day Two Session Four | The Hewes Family

Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.

Afternoon tea at Education Nation

As anyone who has been to education conferences in the past knows, by the time you reach the last session, there is serious mental fatigue setting in. I was struggling a little, though a slice of excellent chocolate brownie and a hot chocolate whilst sitting on the deck at Luna Park chatting with Corinne Campbell, who had her Teacher’s Education Review (@TERPodcast) hat on, made for a nice mental change of direction. Corinne interviewed me in my role as a blogger for Education Nation, and to be honest, I do not remember very clearly what the questions were or what I said in response and I just hope that I did not sound too waffly or pompous!


The last session of Education Nation was one that I had chosen specifically because the topic it was covering was one that I was not completely sold on, having never seen it run particularly well. It meant, or I felt it meant, that I would go in skeptical (always healthy) and would either have my feelings confirmed or changed. I would not be able to come out of the session still sitting on the fence about it. The Hewes Family (@biancaH80 and @waginski) were speaking about Project Based Learning (PBL), a pedagogical practice which has become increasingly popular and mainstream over the last few years.


I arrived slightly late, and to the Hewes’ boys speaking about their experiences as students with PBL, acknowledging that there are many different models of PBL, but that at its core, it is more than a project. It is often touted as a project go make this or show this and teachers are then hands-off. Lee jumped in at this point and said that if you are not having students hitting the top tiers of Bloom’s taxonomy during a PBL unit, then you are not utilising PBL properly. Bianca and Lee laid out some key ideas to keep in mind when considering using PBL as part of your practice.

The first key thing to be aware of, Lee told the audience, was that the PBL unit needs to be thoroughly planned out and that in the early days of learning about  PBL that a good PBL unit will often require as much time to plan properly as it does to actually implement it. As you and your students become more confident and competent with the process and skills required, that time is reduced, but there is a significant investment in time up front. The key to planning any good PBL unit is to keep in mind three key factors; students should be discovering, creating and sharing throughout the unit, though Lee added that a variety of verbs can replace those three.

Photo from The Hewes’ Family presentation at Education Nation. 8 June 2016.


The driving question should be student-friendly, which was elaborated as meaning that students can confidently repeat it correctly and can understand what the question is asking and explain it to others in their own words. This also implies that there should be some sort of problem to be solved which is significant to the students. This does not necessarily mean that they are solving a local problem. The significance can be wider than just the immediate area and assessment, but it should be significant, in some way, to the students. There should also be a continual cycle of assessment for the duration of the PBL unit, assessment of learning, for learning and as learning, and this includes not only the internal assessment by the teacher but an opportunity for external assessment through online sharing of learning.

Quality resources should be planned for and utilised. This includes any kind of resources, whether it be digital, soft-copy, physical resource or a personnel resource; the use of a subject matter expert (SME) as part of the PBL unit. There is more than the textbook available, especially in the age where many questions are easily Google-able or answerable with a small amount of research.

The resources for planning, refining and assessing a PBL unit on the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) (@BIEpbl) were available and very easy to use, particularly as a starting point, and include rubrics to help assess the final learning output. Bianca and Lee stressed that we need to teach students how to read and use the rubric as a signpost throughout the unit so that they understand what will be assessed and how and can use that to track their process and that the rubrics are guided by research from Geoff Petty (@GeoffreyPetty). Part of helping students utilise them is to make them engaging, and this is where the ongoing assessment of, for and as learning comes into play.

Photo from Thew Hewes’ Family presentation at Education Nation. 8 June 2016.

We were also advised to teach students how and why to use a project calendar; as part of teaching accountability, planning and forward thinking, all skills needed in everyday life, but particularly useful for managing time and resources in any sort of project. The students should be encouraged to plan out their project and fill in the due dates for milestones of their project by backward mapping the overall process after a discussion about realistic timeframes and then roles and responsibilities within the group should be negotiated. I get the impression that this would be an investment in time, up front, but that would long term, see strong dividends. Students would, with the right instruction in how to use them, be able to apply the concept across the rest of their learning and stay on top of any other assessment tasks, particularly in a secondary setting where there might be multiple tasks in play at any one time.

Part of the process of planning high-quality resources, which I mentioned above, also included booking conference time with the teacher. Lee spoke about how he encourages students to consider particular skills or concepts they will need to learn and to book in lessons with him, cooperatively with other groups, to ensure they get the instruction they need. This gives students some agency over their learning but lets them know that there are instructional sessions that they will need to complete in order to learn skills or concepts needed for the end product.

Additionally, you need to prepare students for PBL by developing specific skills such as teamwork, collaboration, presenting, conducting research and knowing how to be independent and a team player, as well as when to be both of those. Lee advocated using starbursting as a tool to help students understand the skills needed for PBL and also to help them develop teamwork criteria.


Image retrieved from tinyurl.com/zgwyfmd on 13 June 2016.

Bianca next spoke about the importance of remaining organised before and during a PBL unit. Using Project Packets which contains unit outlines, rubrics, lists of resources and where or how to access them etc are a great way of helping students stay organised (see here for examples of what else might be in a project packet), and that these can be digital, hard copy or both. Using a project wall can also be a useful way to keep PBL units organised, as can some form of online resource management or LMS for communication and sharing of resources.

Next, we heard about the [not so] secret structure for successful PBL units.

  1. A solid hook lesson with some embedded formative assessment.
  2. Project outlines, a KWL chart for some more formative assessment and to allow students to make their learning visible and a loose outline of their project calendars.
  3. Form project teams (teacher-selected), discuss and sign contracts, teamwork rubrics.
  4. Engage in the discovery cycle which will utilise some explicit instruction, as well as teacher and student-led activities and SME visits or contact via an alternative form.
  5. Move to the create cycle, which is where groups plan, prototype and test their learning output and engage in a thirty-second class share (though the thirty-second share can occur at any point in the PBL unit and should occur on multiple occasions), a gallery walk and engagement with goals, medals and missions.
  6. The share cycle which requires rehearsal and preparation by the students prior to their sharing (in whatever form that takes). It was stressed, at this point, that teachers need to not micromanage this phase of the PBL unit. Students are accountable for what they have learned and the unit will only be successful on subsequent occasions with the same cohort if they know they are held accountable and that you will not swoop in at the last moment to do the work for them.
  7. The evaluation phase, where students and teacher engage with an honest and frank self-assessment and reflection period about the unit, the effort put in, the outcomes and the products, the rubrics used, what worked well and what could be improved next time.

Bianca has written about the various aspects of structuring a PBL unit on her own blog. One article  found, which seems to speak to some of the specifics I have covered above can be found here.


The criteria for awesome according to the Hewes’ children. Photo taken of a slide during their Education Nation presentation on 8 June 2016.

The session was closed out with a task for the audience. In our table groups, we had to develop a brief PBL unit overview that we could take back to our context and with further planning using the tools and strategies shared with us, put into practice. We were given some examples of PBL Unit outlines created by Bianca and Lee that they provided to students as part of their own PBL teaching, one of which I have included below.


A PBL Unit outline for a Year Four class.

I can certainly see the benefits of PBL now, and I feel that with some time and preparation I could develop and run a good PBL unit in my class. It is the time, as always, that is the issue and, at this point in time, I still wish to pursue flipped learning and strengthen my skills in that area. I can certainly see myself returning to PBL in the future, however, and they have given me confidence that it can be done and done very well whilst till hitting the various outcomes that we are required to hit.

This is the last of the session review articles, and at this point, the first iteration of Education Nation was done and dusted, at least from the delegates’ perspectives. I do plan to write one further article as an overall wrap-up and review to address some general feedback that I have received about various aspects of the event, and to tie in some of the themes that I saw across the conference.





Education Nation | Day Two Session Three | Corinne Campbell

Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.

As Leanne and Elizabeth were wrapping up their session, I saw a tweet that Corinne Campbell (@corisel) was beginning her session. This was unexpected, as it was about fifteen minutes before the scheduled start time for her session. I quickly collected my belongings and head upstairs, missing only a few minutes of her session. Corinne was speaking about the empowering or disempowering of the teaching profession as a result of the focus on evidence-based practice.

When I entered, Corinne was discussing that research by John Hattie (@john_hattie and @visiblelearning) shows that all interventions have an impact, however, it is the size of the impact that varies. Corinne also brought up the Teaching and Learning Toolkit by AITSL, which includes a page that outlines a series of pedagogical practices and, relative to each other, their implementation of cost, time for them to produce their overall effect as well as the overall effect size. I have included a screenshot below of what this looks like. The filters (not in the image) allow you to refine the search based on a range of parameters and the list can also be sorted high to low across all four columns. It is another tool on the AITSL website that I have never seen before and reinforces, for me, the feeling that the AITSL website is a vastly underused and under-respected toolbox; I cannot recall the last time I heard any reference, positive or negative, to it in any discussions with other teachers.

Screen capture of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/j5v5p2c on 13 June 2016


Corinne then spoke about unintended consequences of the focus on evidence-based pedagogical practices, beginning with a burgeoning standardisation of practice without consideration for specific contexts. An example of this is the apparently mandated use of direction instruction in remote Aboriginal schools which has been in the media recently. I say apparently as I have not read the articles surrounding the issue and cannot comment either way on it.

The above tweet was the theme for the next portion of Corinne’s presentation. The focus on evidence-based practices is leaving many experienced teachers second-guessing themselves and their teaching strategies despite having many years of experience in the classroom. This has come from, Corinne elaborated, the use of microdata within schools which is causing many teachers to doubt their own practices if they are not achieving growth in their students learning outcomes. It occurred to me at the time that teachers without confidence in themselves and their pedagogy will teach by the book and not take risks pedagogically or instill passion in their students.

Corinne then introduced the thinking of Gert Biesta (@gbiesta).

Corinne Campbell discussing the thinking of Gert Biesta in the Rethinking Reform stream at Education Nation on 8 June 2016.


The last sentence of the quote is, I feel, the important piece here. It relates to a theme that had arisen in earlier sessions at Education Nation; that what works in one context will not necessarily work in another. Corinne then showed us a graphic, which I, unfortunately, did not get a photo of, but which shows three ways of thinking about pedagogical practices and their impact on a student; qualification, socialisation, and subjectification, which, the way that Corinne spoke about it, was a method of thinking that encouraged questioning the purpose of education. My notes on this section are rather lacking, which is disappointing as it struck me as being an important point. I even went to the trouble of (badly) drawing the graphic in my notebook. Rather than include that messy diagram, I have included below a form of the graphic I retrieved from another site which outlines, I feel, the message that Corinne was aiming to impart to the audience.

Slide Two from a slide deck by Dr. Karin Murris. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/jodhwo2 on 13 June 2016


Corinne elaborated on this as her closing point. If we put in place a program which aims at improving a student’s acquisition of knowledge in a particular learning area, without paying any attention to the contextual use of that knowledge (socialisation) or the impact that knowledge may have on the student’s self-efficacy or self-perception (subjectification), then while the qualification may improve we will ultimately see a negative impact. We need to be making contextualised and informed professional judgements about pedagogical practices that will have an overall positive impact in our classroom. That was my understanding of what Corinne was saying, at any rate.

I would have liked to have heard all of Corinne’s presentation, and for her to have had more time to elaborate on some of her ideas. I have a gut feeling, a sense of something itching away at the edge of my consciousness, that there was something in Corinne’s presentation, that I was missing; an idea or concept that would have….I do not actually know. There is a sense that I am missing something important from Corinne’s presentation, however.

Thank you for reading, as always. If you have kept up with the articles I have written as a result of Education Nation, then well done, as they have been rather lengthy articles. I can only hope that my readers have found them useful, particularly for those sessions they were not able to attend themselves. If you have missed any of the articles, you can find the consolidated list by clicking here. Take heart, however, there are only two more articles to go!

Education Nation | Day Two Session Three | Leanne Steed and Elizabeth Amvrazis

Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.

Leanne Steed and Elizabeth Amvrazis were presenting as a duet in the Digital Dimensions stream of Education Nation. They were speaking under a title that intrigued me. The short version, Technology – it’s time to reap its benefits, gave the impression that it would be a discussion of how technology is being used to direct and inform student learning. This session was very quick, or it felt very quick at least, and there was a lot to take in.

Photo from the slide deck of Leanne Steed and Elizabeth Amvrazis at Education Nation 8 June 2016. Does the theme seem familiar?


Leanne and Elizabeth began by having the audience stand up and move around the room to inspect a series of models of learning that they had placed on the walls. There were a large range of ideas and models, including learning as skills for work and a pastorally-driven model, amongst others. We came back together to hear Leanne and Elizabeth remind us that technology is important as teachers are now in the business of forward thinking and planning and technology is here to stay.

Australian Culture is now in the Age of FANG. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/h9pd28p on 12 June 2016

I had not heard this before, the age of FANG, but it made sense once it was explained. We are in an age where Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google dominate the online landscape and indeed, as the article from which the above image was sourced, dominate our culture. This is in stark contrast to our own lives when you consider that Netflix, the oldest of the four companies, only began in 1997, less than twenty years ago.

Leanne and Elizabeth made the point that at no point prior to this, have we referred to a temporal indicator so much that it became a buzzword. We do not see references to nineteenth-century skills in any records, nor do we see references to the need to ensure our students learn the new skills of critical or creative thinking and collaboration as if they have never been skills that anyone in the past has possessed and are recent discoveries.They questioned why the perception of education portrayed in movies and the media is still of a teacher at the front of a room with students in rows of chairs, and showed us the following video, titled A New Vision for Education.

At this point, the audience was asked to go and stand by the poster of the thinking or learning model that were examined at the start of the session which most spoke to them. This led to a brief explanation by some audience members of why they had selected the particular model, which demonstrated that there is a range of thinking in any one room and that we need to remember this in our teaching.

It was an interesting session, but I think the workshop version within The Learner would have been a better way to explore the topic due to the longer timeslot. That said, Leanne and Elizabeth did a great job of sharing their thoughts in the timeslot they had.

Education Nation | Day Two Session Three | Olivia O’Neill

It’s only when  every student has a laptop, the power begins.”
Seymour Papert, quoted by Olivia O’Neill at Education Nation. 8 June 2016

Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.

Olivia O’Neill presenting in the Digital Dimensions stream at Education Nation. 8 June 2016

Following the lunch break for day two of Education Nation, I settled in to hear Olivia O’Neill, Principal of Brighton Secondary School, speaking about Engaging Gen Y Teachers. This was a session I was looking forward to, as I knew a reasonable amount of about the reforms that had occurred at Brighton Secondary School through my interactions with Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLecornu), through both FlipConAus in 2015 and FlipLearnCon in 2016, however, I had about it from Jeremy, whose perspective is that of a teacher. This would be an opportunity to hear about the same journey from the perspective of the Principal.


Olivia explicitly said that it had been a slow and deliberate process over an eight-year period that was strongly influenced by Seymour Papert and engaged parents and students through a series of forums.The school chose iPads for pragmatism and after demonstrating they were in a position to make appropriate use the technology, earned a grant under the Digital Education Revolution, and soon discovered that though they had sufficient wireless coverage, their wireless capacity needed substantial work (see here for a rough explanation of the difference between coverage and capacity), with up to one thousand devices online at any one point in time.

We heard that the school was using a combination of Citrix Xen, Verso and Showbie to support their learning management systems and that they have, across the staff, won a number of awards for the innovative approaches being tried, which has been guided, partially by the SAMR model, but largely by the TPCK model. Olivia also spoke about the use of challenge-based learning as an important component of the pedagogical approach in the school. It is not, Olivia made clear, the be all and end all, but it does play a significant role.

Olivia then spoke, in passing, about the use of flipped learning as having played a significant role in the reforms at their school. If you are not familiar with flipped learning, you will find this article useful as a starting point to understand flipped learning. Formative assessment is now conducted using Kahoot and Socrative, with overall assessment philosophy guided by Dylan Williams’ research on assessment.  A number of teachers also record their feedback on students learning output to provide more detailed and contextual feedback to students, which has seen positive reactions from students and parents. Whilst the challenges that can occur in a room with technology do  still occur, the focus is on the pedagogy and the why of its use.

Photo from Olivia O’Neill’s presentation at Education Nation. 8 June 2016


The school also focuses on character education and providing a large variety of opportunities for students to share their learning in non-traditional ways, which has the flow-on of creating a situation where the students are active participants in their learning, producing as much as they consume, and this is driven by a questioning of the purpose of education (again, this seems to be a pattern!) and why the model of information dumping is still followed when there are so many other options.

There was some interesting information in Olivia’s presentation, and I can only assume that others in the audience gleaned a lot from it. I did enjoy hearing about a story I knew from an alternate perspective, however, I feel like Olivia went for breadth, rather than depth. I would have liked to hear more about the challenges faced in the early days of implementing the reforms; how were parents brought on board? Students? How did the senior teachers react and cope with the changes? How did she gain staff buy-in Olivia mentioned that technology pitfalls still occur, but made no mention of any strategies used to circumvent these in a technology-heavy school. I had hoped to hear more about the challenges faced from the perspective of a Principal, as opposed to what I have heard from the perspective of a teacher (Jeremy LeCornu).

I am looking forward to attending FlipConAus16, which Olivia and Brighton Secondary School are hosting, and learning more about the journey taken whilst I am there. I would like to hear feedback and thoughts on Olivia’s presentation from others who were in the session and did not already know about the changes that have occurred in Brighton Secondary School.

Education Nation | Day Two Session Two | Murat Dizdar and Professor Ken Wiltshire

Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.

If you have missed the previous articles in the Education Nation series, you can find them here.

Lila Mularczyk’s presentation closed out session one of day two at Education Nation and took us into the morning break. I made the decision, still feeling like I had conference brain, that I would sit out during Murat Dizdar’s (@dizdarm) presentation about the national education reform program which commenced session two. I spoke to Murat briefly who gave me permission to record it so that I could listen to it later on. When I sat down yesterday to transfer the photos I had taken from my phone and tablet to my computer, I saw an image of some carpet and, thinking it was an accidental photo of the floor, hit delete. My brain processed, about two seconds later, that it had also had the film strip icon. So I, unfortunately, have nothing to show for Murat’s presentation, for which I can only apologise.


Following Murat’s presentation was Professor Ken Wiltshire speaking about the future of curriculum in Australia.I have only a few written from Professor Wiltshire’s presentation, however, there was an active Twitter conversation throughout his session, which I was involved with and have captured via a storify, which you can find here. Some of the key points that I have noted down that Professor Wiltshire sees learning as having four dimensions:

He commented that few of the recommendations from the review of the national curriculum had been adopted and brought up a number of reforms that he felt should occur, including but not limited to an enforcement of compulsory schooling and the enactment of the National Curriculum as well as a national forum on the purposes of education, values and foundations which should underpin education.

Further, he proposes that we need a national body, that is apolitical to be tasked with writing, reviewing, developing and overseeing education curriculum and assessment, labelling ACARA as a “…horse-trading and political body, not an education body…”

Professor Wiltshire made an interesting comment regarding initial teacher education (ITE), which you can see at the top of the below photo:

I invite you to read through the storify of Professor Wiltshire’s presentation which you can find here and invite anyone who has written about either Professor Wiltshire’s or Murat Dizdar’s presentations (or any other presentation from Education Nation, for that matter) to send me the link to include in this article.

Education Nation | Day Two Session One | Lila Mularczyk

“To sell our children short today is to sell Australia short tomorrow.”
– Gough Whitlam, 1972, cited by Stephen Elder, 27 October 2014

Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.

If you have missed previous articles in the Eduction Nation series, you can find them here.

I have to confess to something. By the time Lila arrived, despite her energy and passion, I was struggling to stay focused and engaged. I had conference-brain and I missed much of what Lila said. This was exacerbated  by Lila speaking with so much energy and passion; and speed. It was difficult to keep up and my brain simply said no.So if it seems as if Lila’s presentation is a bit jumpy and the ideas only tenuously linked, that says more about my note taking and ability to focus during her session than it does about Lila’s content.


Lila opened by remarking that if the education sectors do not work together then the students are the ones who suffer, and it is the students who matter most. Furthermore, of the countries in the OECD whose lead we historically follow socially, culturally and in regards to educational policy, namely the United States and the United Kingdom, their results on PISA testing is going backwards as well, which begs the question of whether we should be following their lead.

Photos of slides from early in Lila’s session.

Lila spoke about how targeted funding, that is, funding that is targeted to specific needs and/or programs makes a significant difference within education and that for those students in low socioeconomic areas, where eighty percent of students’ families cannot afford to for the student to attend university, university offers are meaningless. She continued ( think) by  saying that we need to be looking to credible, interrogated, and reliable educational research when we make decisions about educational policies and pedagogical practices and she included John Hattie’s research in this.

She continued by making reference to work by Ravitch (see photo above) and Pasi Sahlberg‘s (@pasi_sahlberg) unfortunately, though I suspect deliberately acronymised movement, Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), which has been gaining traction here in Australia, but which was largely informed by myth.

.It was at this point that I must have completely zoned out (though my ears must have perked up automatically when publishers and big business was mentioned as I took the above photo, however, as I tuned back in, an unknown amount of time later, I heard Lila say to the audience that “…it is not money itself that is the answer, but how we use the money ,” a sentiment that sounds very logical and sensible and which I do not think too many people would disagree with. It has echoes of some aspects of The Great Debate and some of what was said there, as well as what I have heard other speakers from Education Nation were intimating in their own presentations.

A photo captured at some point during Lila’s presentation.

Lila then remarked that many of the educational practices and ideas that are translated from overseas educational systems are informed by myths, referring back to the opening discussion about the Australian tendency to follow the United Kingdom and the United states when it comes to social and cultural developments and that this holds largely true for educational policy. Thankfully, we have not yet completely gone the way of the corporate curriculum being peddled in both those countries, and about which I have heard nothing but negative feedback, scorn, and derision from educators being forced to work in those contexts. It does, unfortunately, feel like we are beginning to move in that direction. I can only hope we manage to avoid the waves being seen in the United States as a result of Pearson’s engagement with education (see here or here for example), where, in many educational jurisdictions they provide the tests, create and deliver the professional development opportunities, write and provide the textbooks and effectively populate the curriculum.


A comment about tenure was made, with Lila remarking that she could not imagine not having permanency of employment and the uncertainty that that must bring with it.

Lila closed (as far as my notes indicate) by commenting that there is no research which credibly demonstrates a correlation between the decentralisation of educational policy and curriculum with improved academic outcomes for students.

I can only apologise to both Lila and my readers for not having a complete set of notes for this session. I underestimated how intense Education Nation would be cognitively, and it was a late night at the end of day one of Education Nation as I attended the #AussieEd Live event at Kirribilli Club (which was a fantastic night) and had then returned to my hotel to write an article. If anyone has written an article as a result of Lila’s session, or any others, please let me know, as I would be happy to include a link to any articles written from Education Nation by other delegates.