Gold Tidbits from Educating Ruby – Part 1

Upon recommendation, I’ve been reading a book entitled ‘Educating Ruby’ by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas. The book is not only a call to action about modern learning but demonstrates research about effective pedagogical practice – the Roms, the Trads and the Mods.

The Romantics believe that children will blossom if we leave them alone. The Traditionalists seem to believe that all would be well if we had lots of old-fashioned grammar schools teaching Latin and algebra. Trads like to keep things simple, even if their beliefs are damaging or wrong. The third tribe is the Moderates, which includes the vast majority of people who work in or care about education. Where the Trads are simplistic and pugnacious, the Mods like to think and tinker (or ‘thinker’, as Michael Ondaatje put it).” An excerpt from this blog.

I thought it might be helpful to collate some of the golden tidbits from this book to remember.

Chapter 1. Call For Concern

  1. We must encourage risk-taking

Many of our students are risk adverse having lived a molly-coddled life wrapped in cotton wool in which failure is unacceptable.

“How different my life might have been if my school (as many do now) had deliberately nurtured my appetite for adventure and a tolerance for error.” Tom Middlehurst, Head of Research at SSAT

2. We must encourage parental engagement

So many teachers are fearful of parent engagement, concerned that parents will “judge” or that their involvement might deem their teaching powerless.

“…the effect of parental engagement over a students’s school career is equivalent to adding an extra two to three years to that student’s education.” John Hattie, Director of AITSL

3. Finding a meeting point for all stakeholders is vital.

Those behind cried “Forward!”

And those before cried “Back!”

And backward now and forward

Wavers the deep array;

And on the tossing sea of steel,

To and fro the standards eel;

And the victorious trumpet-peal

Dies fitfully away.


Essentially, there is a call for concern. But, these authors are preaching to the converted. One of the reasons I chose to read this book is to have an empirical basis for my concerns about the lack of progression in education.


4 Ways To Make Change Easy

1. Recognise That When You Aren’t Changing, You’re Not Growing – And when you’re not growing, you’re dying. Benjamin Franklin said it well – “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” If you truly want to place yourself in the best position, that position needs to be in state of constant change.

TRY NOW TIP: Try driving a different way to work or eating a food you haven’t tried before.

2. If The Wheel Hadn’t Been Reinvented…  – … we’d still have wheels made of stone, I guess. However, the best inventions start with small changes and innovations; the kind of changes that can be fast proto-typed in a quick, efficient and cut-throat way. We all need to be looking for small changes we can make everyday.

TRY NOW TIP: Have you thought about a more efficient way to use your toothpaste? What about re-organising your wardrobe? OR, Heaven-forbit, what about throwing out some clothes you haven’t worn for a while?

3. Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable – I remember a horse farrier giving me an anecdote to explain a horse getting used to a bit. He asked me what my response would be if he pushed me down onto a tack. I replied that I would get up immediately. He asked how I would respond if he did it again. I gave the same response. He followed this up by saying “What if I pushed you back on that tack over and over again?” I gave the same response. Then, he called me an idiot.The smartest and least painful response would be to stay on the tack… getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

TRY NOW TIP: Don’t sit on a tack – that’s stupid. Try putting yourself in slightly uncomfortable situations such as, spending some time with someone you don’t know well or even going to a BBQ as a newbie.

 4. Stop Talking About Change Management – The term ‘Change Management’ creates an underlying assumption that, at Point X, we will stop changing. Humans love to reach milestones, don’t they? We imagine that once we implement changes a, b and c; we will have reached utopia and we will never need to change again. We love that quintessential image of ourselves standing on top of a mountain, flag in hand with an ‘I made it!’ look across our faces. We imagine a time of rest once we have conquered a supposedly insurmountable challenge. Let’s face it –  change isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Change will be ongoing and the only way to manage it is to actually change.

TRY NOW TIP: Imagine hitting a milestone and then ask yourself, ‘What’s next?’

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

John F. Kennedy

Is Our Reporting System Broken?

Last term, I was charged with rejuvenating the formal written reports for primary at NBCS. It was supposed to be a four-week process – ha! Let’s just say that the ETA for this project’s completion is mid 2015. It’s massive.

I should also add that I don’t have a particular bent on reporting… I’m much more into authentic assessment. However, that begs a vital question – if we are assessing authentically, why are we reporting in-authentically? Many may say because it’s a “department” of “BOSTES” or “government” requirement but, I believe, those people aren’t interpreting the documents accurately.

Here’s the low-down according to BOSTES:

BOSTES reports BOSTES reports 2

This information can and should be interpreted creatively.

One school completely blew my traditional ideas out of the water – Flinders Christian Community College in Victoria don’t have summative reports. What?!

At FCCC, all students upload their assignments to Moodle, these are marked online and viewable by parents. The end. This is authentic, formative reporting. Sure – FCCC have jazzed up the Moodle interface to show graphs and summative information, but teachers don’t write end-of-semester reports.

Thus, at any time, parents can click into Moodle and get information something like this:

FCCC reports 1 FCCC reports 2 FCCC reports 3 FCCC reports 4

This made me realise that, not only are end-of-semester reports “too little, too late” but, perhaps, they are actually completely redundant.

Next week, I’ll share some ideas about how NBCS might move forward with this information in mind.

BYOD For Dummies

I hope you weren’t offended by the “dummy” thing. I know you’re really not a dummy. However, there is something “dumb” going on… All this BYOD hate is dumb, especially if you’ve never tried it.

I was inspired to write this post in response to Gary Stager’s ‘BYOD: Worst Idea of the 21st Century?’ post. Thanks, Gary, for the edu-banter. It’s definitely worth thinking about.

At NBCS, we’ve been implementing BYOD from Yr 5 and up for 3 years now.  This year, we’ve started BYOD in Yr 4 as well. Our BYOD journey certainly hasn’t been without it’s glitches but that’s to be expected. Overall, it’s worked well. I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s the thing – in our setting, BYOD works. It works really well. Here’s why and how it works:


Different Strokes Work For Different Folks

Truth: nothing in life is equal. Someone will always have nicer shoes, cars, digital devices than I do. So what? It’s about time we all got used to that idea. BYOD is not about inequality; it’s about recognising that everyone is different.

In addition, anyone who uses a raft of digital devices chooses to use them for different experiences and purposes. For example; I use my iPhone for daily use, my iPad for traveling, my iPod in the car and my PC for word-processing. Different devices suit different  people and different circumstances. This is exactly the kind of vital information that students are able to find out when they have the freedom of BYOD (or, even better, BYODs).


Real People Use Devices… Everyday




1. a thing made for a particular purpose; an invention or contrivance, especially a mechanical or electrical one.

What computers/iPads kids bring to school are digital devices. Enough said.
Education Has a Price
Good education costs. Anything of value does. Imagine the depth of conversations, research and persuasion that inherently occurs within families purchasing a device (or devices) for BYOD. It’s the perfect learning scenario – people become informed because they need to make a good investment.  What better investment  could someone make than in their child’s education?
BYOD is One Tool
The implementation of BYOD doesn’t constrict the learning process… nor does it widen it. Pedagogy, not tools, affect learning processes. There is new  digital languages need to be learned and this must be addressed. BYOD is a tool to assist 21st Century learning and skills.
BYOD does not Affect Teacher Well-being
Can new things be stressful? Sure. Can new things be exciting? Sure. Can new things actually assist relaxation? Sure. The effect of change depends on the perspective of the person experiencing the change. BYOD might be stressful if you let it be so …or … it could be exciting. Essentially, teachers affect teacher well-being.
Through the implementation of BYOD, I’ve become much more adept and confident int he use of a variety of digital devices, not more stressed as some might suggest.
Overall, BYOD is great. I can’t wait until we move towards Bring Your Own Digital DeviceS!

Visible Thinking and A Private Universe

I’ve been wanting to blog about a Visible Thinking workshop that I attended a while ago. The workshop began by showing this video (circa 1987) called A Private Universe: Misconceptions That Block Learning. In the clip, Harvard graduates are asked a seemingly simple question – What causes the seasons? You’ll be surprised by the responses.

NOTE: You can also watch the full video here:

The video shows the strength of “private theories” that students construct. We all know that in order to conserve energy, our brains attach new information to previous schemata.  Our brains change seemingly small parts of received information in order for it to connect to prior knowledge as this is easier than creating a whole new schema. This explains why we all have slightly morphed ideas about even factual information.

What does this mean for learning (and teaching)? How does this link to Visible Thinking?

It is vital for students to become aware of their own schemata on any given topic. Naturally, by discussing currently held theories, the teacher and the learning community can direct the lesson so that everyone develops a more accurate understanding of the content.

Here are some examples of Visible Thinking routines that can assist the learning community in developing a shared understanding of a concept:

(see for more in depth instruction on these routines)

By really asking our students (and ourselves) to critically analyse current understandings, we develop a learning community in the true sense where any idea can be questioned, examined and proved (or disproved). That’s a learning community that I want to be a part of!

‘To raise new questions, new problems, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and makes real advances’
Albert Einstein

A New Attitude Towards National Testing, Part 1

How could this be fun?

Lately, I’ve been pondering the teacher and student plight in regards to National Testing. There is no doubt that National Testing is here to stay in most countries, at least in the short term. Currently, my approach to National Testing has been to prepare my students by giving some practice with these types of tests with pre/post cursory comment of “This is just one test on one day that doesn’t actually measure everything you can do.”
We make such comments in the hope it will take some of the pressure off our students, but what is it really doing?

We know very well that the teacher’s attitude affects nearly everything in the classroom. Perhaps our attitude to these types of tests actually contributes to how well (or poorly) students attain. Perhaps our natural and justified disdain for National Testing affects the overall outcomes.

 Now, I’m definitely not condoning National Testing nor do I believe it is able to truly measure student achievement effectively. Nevertheless, I want my students to do well in National Testing. It’s healthy for them to become aware of benchmarks as they will, unfortunately, be measured by benchmark standards in the years to come.  Additionally, most parents place weight on National Testing and a student’s ability to do well in these types of tests can help parents to ‘breathe easy’ (Why parents place so much emphasis on these tests is beyond me – that’s a whole new article in itself!).

Thus, I’m going to set myself a new goal this year. I’m going to attempt a National Testing attitude adjustment. I’m not going to ignore it nor am I going to make it the be-all-and-end-all. I’m going to try to make it fun.
This  goal is perhaps too large, especially as we all know that, more often than not, the more we try to make things cool or fun or interesting, the less they actually are. Annoying. This is, obviously, a trial and error based goal which will require a number of important prerequisites in the classroom:

1. A supportive and communicative teacher-student relationship (Jennings & Greenberg, 2012)
2. A play-like competitive classroom environment where stakes are high in terms of the class’ culture (Black and William, 2010)
3. Reflective learning practice based on improving speed and accuracy (Zubizarreta, 2009)

(Note: ‘Curiosity’ would normally be in the list but National Testing forbids it 😉

The pupil labeled hopeless may react in quick and lively fashion when the thing-in-hand seems to him worth while, as some out-of-school sport or social affair. Indeed, the school subject might move him, were it set in a different context and treated by a different method.
Dewey, 1910

Check out my next article for some practical ways to make National Testing fun.


It’s difficult for me to put into words why attending ISTE13 changed my teaching. The number one catalyst was probably that I’ve had the chance to become a learner for a while. At the heart, most teachers love learning and want to ignite that love in our students; to never stop enquiring, to keep asking questions, to continue verifying understanding and to pass on that knowledge to others.

Much of what occurred, in my mind, was validation that NBCS and what we’re doing in Stage 3 is not only on “the right track” but it’s the signpost for much of the world. When Lou and I went to the ISTE Study Tour session, they raved about NBCS. The wording in their article was that NBCS provides “… compelling examples of spaces that could simultaneously accommodate learners in multiple phases of their learning quests.” Lou and I were able to contribute to their understanding of Australian education and of the pedagogies of NBCS.

Naturally, there were times when I was able to reflect upon some of our current practices. Although the Stage 3 Numeracy program is excellent, it could still incorporate more Project-based Learning including making. There are amazing technological tools developed out of the Maker Movement that would enable deeper learning in both Numeracy and Science. I intend to help the Stage 3 team make these changes promptly upon my return.

It was clear that Stage 3 at NBCS is a world leader in Flipped Learning. Our contributions to the panel session with Aaron Sams demonstrated our expertise in implementing Flipped Learning by using Edcanvas and Edmodo. However, again, there is progress to be made. Greater education for our NBCS community regarding the richness of Flipped Learning is required.

One of the best take-always was from Alan November’s session. I loved the idea of having a student take notes of his/her learning throughout each day and then posting it on a blog or Edmodo. This is a great way for teachers to assess that student’s understanding and also makes a great revision tool for the rest of the students. I intend to coach the Stage 3 team in making this idea part of our learning process.

Naturally, there were many opportunities to network with educators from home and abroad. We solidified connections with educators from Shore and Inaburra schools. In addition, we had the privilege of meeting the creators of Edcanvas, Brainpop, Zondle and Educade. The start-up movement is such an important cultural shift that’s vital for today’s learning environment.

ISTE13 was an invigorating and exhausting experience that inspired me to continue to help my students become lifelong learners. I am so grateful to the NBCS Board for allowing me to attend and my colleagues for releasing me to go. Be ready to be ISTEfied when I return!