11 questions

This is my response to the 11 questions challenge set by Nick Jackson @largerama (http://largerama.creativeblogs.net/).  These questions really did press on a few nerves and took a while to compile, responding in word and in a public forum really does help sharpen your take and opinion on topics and issues.  Thanks for the challenge Nick!

  1. Why are you a teacher?

For me, it is a love affair with learning and working with young people.  Being a teacher puts you right at the coalface and I love the challenge of learning myself or helping others to learn.  I also love the challenge of working with young people.  Challenging their thinking, having them challenge mine, learning with them, learning from them.  Being a teacher is extremely rewarding and demanding and I could not imagine myself doing anything else

2.       How do you/would you answer people when they ask you to prove that much of education needs to change

Personally I think we are in the midst of an education revolution.  There are thinkers and doers in schools everywhere being change agents trying to engage, inspire and educate young people.  Educators are connecting more than ever and questioning more than ever and I believe that change is happening.  There is a grassroots ground swell building and that voice is getting louder but it is hamstrung by a government ceiling that seems more focused on teaching to a test (i.e. PISA results, NAPLAN, etc…) than teaching the future generation.  Educators and young people are changing education, we just need a few more key stakeholders to jump on board.

3.       If you had the power to make one rule in your school that every teacher would follow, what would you your rule be and why?

I would require every teacher to build and maintain a Personal Learning Network.  Part of this would require staff to be transparent with their learning and share and showcase their stories.  This could be through a range of mediums; blogs, podcasts, journals, etc…  Great teachers are great learners.  Connecting with different perspectives, ideas and backgrounds helps to enrich and inspire and it needs to be a part of every teacher’s life.   We are in the business of teaching and learning, I just want to make sure that there is a balance in that equation for teachers.

4.       What is the important thing you do as a teacher with your students and why is it important?

Promote mistakes.  Lots of them!  Mistakes indicate attempts and the more attempts a learner makes, the better!  A mistake provides opportunity for feedback (personal, peer, group or teacher) and helps build learner resilience.  Developing resilient learners who learn from their attempts is a huge part of my teaching approach.  Learning is rough, raw and messy and mistakes help provide clarity and develop understanding.

5.       If you could set up a dream team of people in charge of education in your state, country, district, etc, who would they be?

Professor Guy Claxton:  To personalise education, we need to focus on the learner.  Who better to develop this than the founder of Building Learning Power. 

Seth Godin: One of the best thinkers in education.

@MelCashen & @richardolsen: Two inspiring educators who I love to listen to, engage with and have a beer with.

Kim Elliott: A colleague from my previous school who is one of the best teachers I have ever worked with.  Dedicated, passionate, incredible vision and an amazing way with young people.

Wendy McCarry: Inspiring colleague whose energy and willingness to push the boundaries of pedagogy challenges me every day.

Deb Sukarna: My mentor.  Marries big vision thinking with day to day application brilliantly and does so with the most caring disposition.  On the flip side, is also tough as nails!!

Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal):  Currently reading and loving Eric’s book “Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing times” and inspired by a leader who not only understands that great technology use can enhance student and staff learning but embraces it and walks the walk.

6.       What do you think the value of ‘celebrity’ keynote speakers at educational conference is?

For me, it’s not who it is but what they have to say.  I have been blown away by the insight and foresight of some ‘celebrity’ keynote speakers and been left flat by others.  I do think that the best speakers spend a lot more time in the classroom.  It helps to keep them relevant.  Celebrity speakers don’t get my goat as much as those spruiking a product or with a hidden agenda. 

7.       What do you think should be taught to young people to make them digitally literate?

Students need to develop their capacity to filter.  Whether it be vetting information, flagging inappropriate content or arranging their thinking.  Filtering can help kerb the flow of information and make the digital world easier to survive in.  I think that students need to be taught how to find their digital voice and understand the etiquette required to thrive in a digital world.  I believe students need to be taught strategies to “unplug” from the digital world to help keep balance in their lives.  I believe students need to understand and respect intellectual property.  Sourcing information, understanding licencing and giving credit where credit is due is essential.  In a world of remixing and mash ups, crediting the creator is the right thing to do. 

8.       What do you think would happen if students in your school were given power over technology integration in your school for the next five years with only advice from adults and a budget to work with?

Increased student engagement, many mistakes (awesome), many grey hairs, lighter and more responsive digital environment (students don’t care for clunky, monolithic systems), many digital grey areas (different perspectives from different generations), increased game based learning, development of student system to vet technology, a push for BYOD and no filters, a better understanding of the each other’s perspective (student & teacher), a search for the fastest connection possible, lots of digital piracy and downloading, much better digital citizenship programs and understanding of the ways in which young people use social media.

9.       Do you think young people have changed since you were a child?

There are many similarities but I do think that young people have changed.  With the rapid development of the digital world, we see an evolution in the way that people connect, learn and be.  The digital world has provided young people with a platform to have a voice and have this voice heard globally and instantly.  The brains of these digital citizens are wired differently to mine.  Knowing is Googling so information holds no value and is dispensable.  I do also think that knowing a time “BG” (Before Google) gives me a way of thinking that is foreign to the young people of today.  As well as that, the desensitisation levels of young people today are much higher.  Content that would have rocked my world when I was a child is a PG movie nowadays. 

10.   How best can we address the disconnect between different levels of education (primary to secondary, secondary to university)

I have been fortunate enough to work in both primary and secondary and my current role covers both.  Spending some time in each other’s shoes would help provide perspective and insight.  If we look at schooling on a continuum and relate it to any learning continuum utilised in the classroom, knowing where learning is going helps to extend, enhance and deepen understanding and enrich teaching.  If staff from each different level had a better understanding of where learners are coming from and going to, it might improve the disconnect.  I do also think that each different level has much to learn from each other.  To put it out there, how many primary teachers regularly converse and discuss pedagogy with secondary or university teachers and vice versa.  Conversations along a continuum would provide great insight.

11.   What is the most influential book/article/post you have ever read on education?

Seth Godin’s manifesto “Stop Stealing Dreams” really resonated with me.  It really pressed on nerves and got me to question everything I do and believe.  Download it for free here http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/docs/stopstealingdreamsscreen.pdf

I also loved Professor Guy Claxton’s “What’s the point of school? “as it really helped shape to me what personalised learning is truly about.  Developing how we learn needs to drive schooling and this book helped introduce me to Prof. Guy Claxton’s work with Building Learning Power.

Now the challenge is shared!  11 questions for 11 educators who inspire me.

1. If you had the power to make one rule in your school that every teacher would follow, what would you your rule be and why?

2. What is your learning process?

3. Where do you see education in ten years ?

4. Why are you a teacher?

5. How should a technical team support teachers?

6. If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

7. What is the hardest learning experience you have ever had?

8. What three books changed your life?

9. Who inspires you?

10. What strategies do you use to bounce back from the tough days in teaching?

11. What is right with education in 2014?

I would love to hear from the following 11 inspiring people












Look forward to hearing from everyone!


6 thoughts on “11 questions

Add yours

  1. That made a most interesting and informative read Steve; insightful and very personal answers to @largerama’s challenge. Like it.
    Can I ask you a bit more about Q7 & what you see as the distinction between digital literacy and digital citizenship, if there is one. Who do you feel has the responsibility to help students with that and how should it be done?

    (Bit unfair to add extra questions when you’ve already done 11. Sorry!)

    1. Thanks for reading Ian, took me a while to put it together, busy times coupled with some challenging questions. Not a problem about the extra question, it really does help sharpen my perspective and opinion.

      For question 7, I felt I couldn’t really discuss digital literacy without digital citizenship. I see digital citizenship as how the learner participates in the digital world and digital literacy as what the learner creates, consumes, contributes and understands in the digital world. I suppose it could be seen as the learner/person (citizenship) and the learning/action (literacy). There is definitely a distinction between them but they are intertwined.

      When I was thinking about my response to who I feel has responsibility, I decided to remove the word “digital” from the mix and think of who has responsibility to help young people be literate and good citizens and this really did help provide some clarity. I believe that it is a team approach; family, school, friends and community. In a digital sense, it is the four that I mentioned plus I would add digital community to that mix.

      How should it be done? Being a parent myself, I have noticed that it isn’t always about what I explicitly try and teach my daughter that she picks up on but my body language, reactions, behaviour and actions throughout the day. I think this type of role modelling needs to also be repeated in a digital world. For me, this isn’t a problem as I write, acknowledge and contribute digitally but for those parents who don’t, it is a challenge. Maybe setting up a digital big brother/big sister program (not the George Orwell version!!) for young people would help. Channelling the talent and guidance of a digital community to develop the levels of literacy and citizenship for a future generation through a digital mentorship or a type of digital community service could help. The challenge lies in providing the students with an environment where they can make authentic mistakes and try again and that environment being an environment that doesn’t easily forget mistakes.

  2. 1. If you had the power to make one rule in your school that every teacher would follow, what would you your rule be and why?
    Don’t over-think it!

    2. What is your learning process?
    I look for simplest way to solve whatever problem I’m working on, which usually means stealing someone else’s ideas and work.

    3. Where do you see education in ten years?
    I have a good feeling about things, we’re seeing a definite move to inquiry-based learning and I see that continuing.

    4. Why are you a teacher?
    It seemed like a good idea when my current work was going nowhere, and my mum is a teacher.

    5. How should a technical team support teachers?
    Through quick wins rather than long-term plans.

    6. If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

    7. What is the hardest learning experience you have ever had?
    Anything when you really have to pay for your mistakes. Workshops that bomb aren’t fun either 🙂

    8. What three books changed your life?
    Mindstorms, The Goal, and The Lean Startup.

    9. Who inspires you?
    Bruce Dixon, Bret Victor, Eric Ries, Esme Capp, teachers on Twitter, my friends and family.

    10. What strategies do you use to bounce back from the tough days in teaching?
    Beer and talking it out. I also believe Covey is right about saying “its over” and just moving on.

    11. What is right with education in 2014?
    The passion for change and improvement.

    1. I love how you can say more in one or two lines than I can in 15. Great responses Rich…agree with your what is right answer. There is most definitely a great passion for change and improvement in education in 2014.

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