Category: Professional development

Resources and writings about professional development

Why do teachers grumble



workshop tally
A clear contract

I run workshops for pre-service teachers as part of the Understanding Teachers Work unit here at Murdoch University.

During one of many great conversations in our workshop yesterday, a student remarked:

“Teachers are always complaining about something. They talk about how wonderful teaching can be but then they spend hours going on about how terrible things really are.”

So, we are a profession of compulsory whingers, right? This was too good an opportunity not to scratch the surface of the statement.

Just this week, we were looking at the (lack of) systemic changes in education over the years. How things were, how they are and … how they are likely to be. As a stimulus to the conversation about the future, we used a useful and well publicised OECD study on six possible scenarios of Schooling for Tomorrow. Although a little dated (2004), the study offers some excellent food for thought.

In short (if you can’t be bothered going to the link), the report identifies six main scenarios that may (continue to) play out with regards to mainstream schooling.

1. Schools in ‘back to the future’

This scenario shows schools in powerful, bureaucratic, systems that are resistant to change. Schools continue mostly with ‘business as usual’, defined by isolated units – schools, classes, teachers – in top-down administrations. The system reacts little to the wider environment, and operates to its own conventions and regulations.

2. Schools as focused learning organisations

In this scenario, schools function as focal learning organisations, revitalised around a knowledge agenda in cultures of experimentation, diversity, and innovation. The system enjoys substantial investment, especially to benefit disadvantaged communities and maintain high teacher working conditions.

3. Schools as core social centres

In this scenario, the walls around schools come down but they remain strong, sharing responsibilities with other community bodies. Non-formal learning, collective tasks and intergenerational activities are strongly emphasised. High public support ensures quality environments, and teachers enjoy high esteem.

4. The extended market model

This scenario depicts a wide extension of market approaches in who provides education, how it is delivered, how choices are made, and resources distributed. Governments withdraw from running schools, pushed by dissatisfaction of “consumers.” This future might bring innovation and dynamism, and it might foster exclusion and inequality.

5. Learning networks replacing schools

This scenario imagines the disappearance of schools per se, replaced by learning networks operating within a highly developed “network society.” Networks based on diverse cultural, religious and community interests lead to a multitude of diverse formal, non-formal, and informal learning settings, with intensive use of ICTs.

6. Teacher exodus and crisis

This scenario depicts a meltdown of the school system. It results mainly from a major shortage of teachers triggered by retirement, unsatisfactory working conditions, more attractive job opportunities elsewhere.

Students then got to choose the one or max two scenarios which they think our broad schooling system in this country is at now and one or two scenarios they wish were in place in the future, especially as they head out in a couple of years as qualified teachers.

The picture above shows the voting results from the two groups (Monday & Tuesday):

The difference is striking. They mostly identified (and rightly so)ย we are at ย scenarios 1 (‘Back to the future’), 4 (Extended market model) and 6 (Exodus and crisis). What they wish for are largely 2 (Focused learning organisations), 3 (Core social centres) and some 5 (Learning networks replacing schools).

“And you want to become a teacher? Look at it! Oh you dummies … why?” I said, in jest.

I continued: “There lies the heart of some of the deepest teacher grumbles. They may be expressed in references to day-to-day and seemingly petty things but the disconnect between what most educators came into the game for and what happens so often is telling. What is more, brochures, websites, press releases, mission statements, policies and similar texts are full of rhetoric couched in terms of scenarios 2, 3 and even 5. Teachers recognise, connect with the aspirational voice in them but realise they mostly pay lip service to the ‘real world’ of scenarios 1, 4 and 6.”

Why am I telling this to future teachers? Am I not just about condemning our profession and discouraging them to continue their study, do something else other teaching?

Perhaps – yes. But I know I am also helping to send out resilient practitioners who are not going to crumble under the first demand that pierces their bubble of ideal education nor will they fall for the shiny promises of the ‘new’, much of it mostly recycled (<- love this post, more goodness there from The Pedagogista). They may better ‘read’, understand the staffroom whinge, grasp the beers celebrating the end of term or the ‘hump’ week, and resist the temptation to become a superhero but instead be ‘good enough’ for the kids and colleagues they work with.

Because let’s face it – no matter what the future of schooling will look like, it is those good enough educators that will make it work. But there remains something about the examined life worth living…

What I learned in 2011

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

My big(gest) lessons and reminders of 2011:

The importance of doing what you love doing in your career.

I never have or will regret joining Moodle HQ but I never have or will regret leaving Moodle HQ this year either. Thank you Martin & Moodle HQ. I love Moodle and its community but I am really happy to be a Moodle volunteer again and get paid (less) to work with teens that I dare say majority of teaching colleagues would not want to see in their class.

The importance of expectations.

You don’t significantly change or disrupt status quo by doing more of the same (way) but harder. Changing expectations shifts things dramatically.

Picture the expectations of a kid (and his surrounds) who has been told, overtly and covertly by the system of mainstream schooling, that most he can aspire to be is a dumb poor loser with some dead-end job as his only option (like many in his family). Suddenly, he completes a great project in the field he is passionate about. He is told, for the first time in his life, that a local university is offering courses in that field, and that, on the basis of things shown and in all sincerety,ย  going to uni and/or getting a well paid, challenging job in the industry is a realistic option for him in a couple of years if he puts in the effort. I saw the reaction of this kid and his parents. And it gives me tingles as I write this.

The value of Big Picture.

Big Picture is not a panacea for all our educational ills. It also isn’t for every kid out there. It requires a special kind of educator to really ‘get it’ too. But from what I have seen, learned and experienced this year after working in a Big Picture school and seeing some great work of kids and colleagues in BP schools around the country and the world, it is an approach, a state of mind rather, that truly empowers.

‘School’ is deeply ingrained in our societal DNA

It is soooo damn hard to ‘forget’ what ‘school’ looks like and does. In a ‘school’ you learn to play the game (usually called ‘what does the teacher or test want me to say’) then pass … and largely forget. There is a teacher, the knower, and a bunch of students who need to be ‘taught’ stuff prescribed by often someone else and contextually remote. You need a grade to show how much you are worth. Above all – you don’t ask (tough) questions. Things like: ‘What are we doing this for?’ And if kids don’t learn, the teacher says ‘I taught them that but they didn’t learn it’ (akin to a realtor saying ‘I sold them the house but they didn’t buy it’ …).

No wonder it takes us a very long time at our school (yes, we are one, but a Big Picture one) for kids and parents to come to terms with statement/questions like: “What are you passionate about?”, “What is worth learning?”, “No, I am NOT going to tell you what to do next, but I am happy to figure it out WITH you.” “You (student) know more about this (topic) than me (teacher) already so I am going to learn with you.” Crazy stuff huh? Or is it? Ask yourself why (not).

The value of networks

You have no idea how grateful I am of my, well our, network. This goes particularly when I see you from around the planet interacting with kids at our school, kids who, in most cases, have barely left their suburb all their life. Things like comments to ‘John’s’ motorbike website or ‘Billy’s’ ‘World Of Drugs‘ wiki project (one I am hugely excited and hopeful about in 2012) are small but priceless.

Every comment here on Human, every @ reply on Twitter, every *Like* on Facebook, every email, Skype call, shared document or other interaction reinforces my liking for Stephen Heppel’s observation: Previous century was about making stuff FOR many people. This century is about helping people help each other.

and finally … drumroll …

Watching students flourish in front of my eyes in moments during the year and particularly during their Big Picture exhibitions reminds me why I want(ed) to work in education: not to be “the knower” in some field and bang on about it as if it were the most important thing in the world but watch and help others becoming knowers (of) themselves in the fields they chose and share.

PS. If I don’t post anything before Christmas/New Year it probably means I am playing with my own kids and enjoying a bit of holidays. But I do check in here and Twitter …

Have a peaceful Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Kiss your kids and loved ones and tell them you love them. Often. And mean it.

Overschooled and undereducated

Yesterday, I read and keenly tweeted a link of a(nother) excellent post by Ira Socol (@irasocol) called ‘Schools That Matter‘. It’s vintage, eloquent Ira. A few replies later, I noted a link shared by Geoff Alemand (@scratchie, thanks mate) that pointed to an absolute gem, shared below.

I borrow the post title from a book by John Abbot (@21learn) and Heather MacTaggart I am about to order. You can read more about the book and explore the excellent site of Born To Learn animation series and (of) its associated organisation 21st Century Learning Initiative.

I’ve seen many a 21st century call-to-arms but this one, for my 2 cents, stands above the pep-crowd with its simplicity, research support and an easy-to-grasp genealogy of current mainstream schooling. Bit of confirmation bias perhaps here but you know …

I am embedding the three clips here, in no particular order. They could be used in so many presentations, sessions, workshops and similar gathering to stimulate truly important conversations.

If I were showing these at a staff meeting, teacher education or similar, I would strategically pause the third clip (Class Reunion) at exactly 2.48 into the clip and ask the room for responses.

They may just frame the essence of the(ir) view, purpose and reasons to be(come) an educator.


Born to Learn from Born to Learn on Vimeo.

The Faustian Bargain (Trailer) from Born to Learn on Vimeo.

Born to Learn: Class Reunion from Born to Learn on Vimeo.

Thank you Geoff for sharing, thank you John and Heather for your work.

Ed-tech snake oil

snake oil

A re-read of an old gem (Postman’s speech ‘Informing Ourselves to Death) and a brief conversation with @pcoutas at our local Sunday morning markets prompted me to note a few questions that just scream to be asked every time people talk about ed-tech tools and their use.

  • What problem will use of [insert a tool] solve? (or asked differently ‘if [insert a tool] is the answer, what is/are the question(s)’?
  • Why is that (not) a problem to [you/others]? (or rather ‘who cares’, at this point refrain from ‘why should they care’, important to listen, not talk!)
  • How important is this problem to [you/others] ? (and how do/will you find out…)
  • What will be gained and what will be lost as a result of using [insert a tool] ? (technology giveth, technology taketh away…)

Be honest. If you don’t have or generate locally and contextually (no universals please!) sound answers and generate a bunch of questions as you go along – you are either selling or being sold snake oil.

Nobody asks

Last week, I was invited to a high school as an ‘expert’ on using Moodle in the classroom. I had a series of 45-minute sessions to, as my brief read, ‘inspire’ each group of teachers (average size of about 15-20) over two days of PD to use their nice local Moodle & Mahara setup in their teaching.

Yeah right.

I’ve never liked ‘gurus’ showing flashy wares and ideas, especially right at the start of school year with so many things to get ready before the kids arrive. I’ve never liked being considered one either.

So, I thought we’d use the 45 minutes for a guided chat about things we are kinda all good at – talking about our needs. Needs of teachers I spoke to and, importantly, the kids they teach. In the context, shoot a few Moodle ideas past them and see how use-full or use-less they may be. But it was about the hole, less about the drill.

Digigogy Images

I even flashed these sort of things as a visual reminder:

Great teachers

and …


EVERY group sat a little stunned at first. Believe it or not, the ideas did not flow very freely. The replies ranged from encouraging (‘enthusiasm’, ‘motivation’, ‘meaning’ …) to downright pathetic (‘textbook’, ‘ways to easily memorise a range of acronyms we use’). We’d eventually get about 5 – 10 needs on the board to work with.

And behold the question “Why DO you teach?” asked as the conversations began to flow. Many felt a little threatened even!

Or as one teacher put it: “Nobody really gets asked these questions.” Rarely, if ever, do teachers ask these themselves. It’s all assumed, we all know what happens at school and what the school and teachers are there for, we all ‘innovate’ but it basically changes bugger all while giving the impression of progress and change.

I am NOTย  bashing teachers here. Quite contrary, I understand so many of them, barraged by things to, often mindlessly, tick and do while lacking time, space, even increasingly a reason for these questions (other than stuff like ‘raise scores’ etc.).

A friend noted in reply to my email containing a few gems collected over two days: “I often reflect that all of these controlling, narrow and limiting views of education are expressed by people who once showed wonder, imagination, a sense of fun, and often got into teaching because they wanted to have a positive influence on the lives of young people. How is it that they are who they are today? Not easy to answer, but important to try nonetheless.”

While I did cover my brief and talked about Moodle and ‘technology’ over the two days, I was glad, while sad and often a little horrified, to talk about the ultimate technology and weapon for change – asking good questions and wrestling with them.

I wish all my Australian & New Zealand teaching colleagues and their students a great school year 2011 (first day today for most). Turn the crap detectors on and use them! Make it matter.

And if you think I can help you in some way in doing that, you know where to find me.

Moodle Wizard?

Today, I have been closely following the #mpos10 Twitter tag from the 2010 Moodleposium in Canberra. The next best thing to being there (but then again, I get to ‘go’ to many sessions simultaneously…)

This afternoon, I found an absolute gem that I just have to share – a course called ‘Translating Learning Outcomes in Moodle‘ by Srinivas Chemboli, Lauren Kane (@l_kane) and Lynette Johns-Boast from Australian National University in Canberra (presented and available as part of the 2010 Australian Moodlemoot I happened to miss ๐Ÿ™ )

This resource speaks to the educator and Moodle fan/user/improver/researcher in me, particularly after the recent conversation(s) with Mark Drechsler (see the post, presentation & comments) about Moodle course design, key features of a ‘good Moodle course’ and a long standing distaste for ‘technocentric’ thinking (as Papert explains in his seminal paper). I have been banging on ‘people and learning first, technology last’ for, huh, some time now (strangely, I still have a job with a software maker ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). This course/resource fits the bill very, very nicely.

I invite you to have a look and explore at the course yourself. In a nutshell, it starts with ‘what do we want to learn’ down to ‘what Moodle tool(s) to use’. A very nice, diagrammatic flow that would complement Joyce Seitzinger’s excellent Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers poster. But it is more than a flow in a sense that the user actually gets asked some questions along the way. And that’s the reason for the title of this post…

Imagine Moodle standard shipping out with a ‘wizard’ (for lack of better word…) that guides the teacher or whoever we choose in the course as a community to create activities, resources and other? A wizard based on the insights of Srinivas, Lauren, Lynette and their team at ANU that starts with a problem, idea, learning/teaching goal and ends up (!) in choosing the appropriate Moodle tool(s) for the job, in the very context where it is used.

Imagine the delight of ‘tech integrators’ in changing their role to ‘learn-with-tech integrators’ (which is what they really are most of time but titles often betray ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Imagine educators seeing Moodle not as a piece of software but a way to help and encourage meta-thinking about teaching and learning needs of people they work with. Or as Punya Mishra aptly states:

“Learning about technology is different from learning what to do with it”.

A word of caution!

Whatever the ‘wizard’ and its qualities, it will never, ever, ever, ever be a panacea, an all-fitting solution or perhaps even a substitute for great teaching. Or as another apt line, this time by Tony Bates, goes:

“Good teaching may overcome a poor choice of technology, but technology will never save bad teaching.โ€™

Teaching and learning (the separation of these two terms is so superfluous sometimes…) has always been a bricolage, endless contextual adjustment of things, not an automated process because it is/they are essentially some of humanity’s biggest and oldest ‘wicked problems‘.

But sometimes we just need a little bit of helping hand to set us off on our exploring, moodling ways.

Thank you Shrinivas, Lauren and Lynette!

What makes a great Moodle course? Part 1 – What is a course?

What is a course?


Reading Wikipedia like Britannica sucks. Reading Wikipedia like Wikipedia is mind-opening.

Cory Doctorow (

What is mind opening about reading Wikipedia? Click ‘Discussion’ on a popular or contentious Wikipedia entry and you’ll see. The history, variety of views, contributions, changes, updates, the links, the enormity of effort across even one entry will (probably?) ‘hit’ you. It’s free, intellectually brawling, universal, instantaneous and pretty damn accurate (I won’t elaborate on ‘truth’ of either โ€“ more on that some other time, blame the French ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

To borrow Doctorow’s quip – reading Moodle like a textbook sucks. Reading Moodle like Moodle is mind-opening. But how do you read Moodle? How do you know a good Moodle site or course when you see it (beyond a pretty theme …)? What set of skills and understanding do you need to read it? Create it?

These questions will be the focus of the next few posts, a series loosely called ‘What makes a great Moodle course?’ The aim is to flesh out a few core questions to help Moodle users not just create and participate in courses but to support and enhance sharing of courses through Moodle 2.0 ‘s new feature called Community Hub. And please, this is only a ‘thinkaloud’ …

The first post will explore a (not ‘the’) definition of a ‘course’ and invite you to ponder a particular view, long held by Martin Dougiamas, the creator and lead developer of Moodle. The next post or two in the series will explore the convergence of technological, content and pedagogical expertise in a great Moodle course, then imagine a great Moodle course as primarily a communication and creation tool. Finally, we will bring it all together and suggest some ‘point format’ guidelines for developing, nurturing and appraising Moodle courses.

Now, this may seem like an individual effort but I would hate it to be so. I would love to hear what YOU think makes a great Moodle course and share it in probably the easiest way possible by contributing to our SynchIn pad (a version of the old beloved Etherpad) or, of course, in the comments below. Because โ€œweโ€ know a lot more than โ€œmeโ€ on this one ๐Ÿ˜‰

So … what is a course?

When asked this question, most people would probably answer something like โ€œa course is a structured body of content and activities that students enrol in, complete tasks and get graded by the teacher to see how well they have done at the end of it.โ€ Yes? No?

But what if you see a course essentially as a community (Martin’s remark that has lingered with me since my first few days at Moodle HQ). What if you even replace the word ‘course’ with the word ‘community’? A few things change …

Whether online, blended or offline, communities, particularly the most successful ones in terms of participation and engagement, have a lot in common:

  • They are not inert, linear, static, fully set and pre-determined things.
  • Roles of members are defined but flexible enough to cater for changes should the circumstances require so.
  • There are understood rules and consequences for breaching them in order for all to feel safe.
  • In a community (unlike a network, more on that perhaps another time…), one cannot just ‘(un)friend’ or ‘(dis)connect’ but learn to deal with, work things out.
  • Its members are responsible to each other in pursuing a common set of goals. Interdependence through contribution and participation is implicit and made explicit in its design.
  • There are multiple channels of communication, not just top-down announcements.
  • Participation and learning are active, done mostly through challenges, feedback and mastery not by passively going through the laid out material.
  • Changes, adjustments, improvements are essential and welcome at different levels and different areas โ€“ everyone improves, not just one type of members at one thing.

Sound like qualities of a good Moodle course? Well, sounds a lot like a party too… as Lee Lefeever of the CommonCraft fame explains the thing about online communities in his usually succinct way:

A blank Moodle course (well, an entire site really…) is essentially an incredibly versatile wiki, hence the Wikipedia reference at the start. By design, a wiki is a platform for a community. If imagined this way, the question then becomes not whether a (your?) course is a community or not, but rather how does a (your?) community cater for its members and their needs, passions, welfare and interests by using Moodle.

And when you see it like THAT, the imagination and mindset matter more than the technical skills. And so they should.

Serious fun in Water!

The world of water

The world of water:

โ€œTell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.โ€ (Chinese proverb)

At the start of this week, we opened Water! – a demo Moodle course designed to show not what Moodle can do but primarily what people can do with Moodle (while of course showing some Moodle features). Big difference between the two!

The response has been phenomenal! We got to ‘capacity crowd’ of 40 within 36 hours of me sending the first tweet about it. 40 people, mostly moodlers but not all, are happy to spend approximately two to four hours over the next few weeks and play students, most under fake names, to generate sample course data. And they seem to be really enjoying it (well, most of them at least…).

Water! is a very simple course about something that we all use and need โ€“ safe, clean, fresh drinking water. It does not require a great depth of content knowledge at all. It features just a few standard, out-of-the-box Moodle activities and it isn’t linear. Deliberately, NO knowledge of Moodle is necessary to participate โ€“ just a basic ability to click, link, upload and follow a few instructions. The only two things needed are an open mindset and imagination.

For now, Water! is there for us to gather sample data. Once we generate enough of it (posts, replies, answers, questions, attempts, submissions, comments, pictures, links etc…), we will then offer the course (together with sample data and explanation of every activity!) for free to anyone to enrol in and play in, even download for their own place of learning for people to get involved and have a play in this ready-made sandpit.

Because the Chinese proverb at the top is right on. Being a student in something first, where you get to see real examples, get to try and safely muck things up a little with others and just like others, but at the same time SEE and get ideas you could use in your own context is sorely needed in supporting our kids and educators. And not just in using Moodle either…

Now, this is the first taste of Moodle’s new educational demo site. The idea is to have courses like Water! in up to ten broad areas of learning (eg. Arts & Media, Maths, Language, Second Language, Natural Sciences etc). These courses will not go to great depth of content knowledge or technological knowledge (ie Moodle features), both of which often make things hard to understand, but to tickle that area that really makes it all go โ€“ sound pedagogical use.

I am passionate about Moodle but I am helluva lot more passionate about great teaching and learning with it.

PS. If you would like to give Moodle a try and actively participate as a ‘demo student’ in the upcoming courses similar to Water!, please head over to and create an account. I will register your email and send you a notice when the next course becomes open (as stated, Water! filled within 36 hours!) if you wish. NO Moodle experience necessary!

The REAL 140 characters

Welcome to the brand new home of the old ‘Human’! (please adjust your subscription/links details, tell your friends too if you please, thanks).

I am still messing around with layout, pages etc. but all in its good time.

To celebrate the occasion at the end of an amazing year I sat in a pub one long afternoon, racked my brain and came up with a list of people I have either connected with for the first time this year, extended a face-to-face or online relationship in 2009. Symbolically, the list is 140 ‘characters’ long to represent that 2009 was a sort of “The Year of Twitter” for me.

This list is awfully unfair to MANY people whom I don’t mention below but with whom I have learned, laughed, argued, annoyed, had my stuff passed on by (re-tweet) etc over the year. The 140 names below also isn’t some sort of ranking of all-important leaders with thousands of followers (many of these guys have only a handful of followers!). If your name is NOT on the list .. please don’t shoot but let’s strengthen this amazing web of people.

I am going to show this to anyone who doubts ‘social media’ and its potential. This is investing in the best possible resource there is – PEOPLE!

Have a safe and merry Christmas and a great New Year 2010!

And now, my longest ever Christmas card (a #follow2010 of a kind) … Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

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Catch-A-Teacher Day

If you see an ad on top of this post – it is not my idea(l) ๐Ÿ™

It’s over! Our four day school Web 2.0 Expo extravaganza over the last few days of school year was largely (and I don’t use the word lightly) adjudged as ‘a success’, ‘eye opening’, ‘interesting’, ‘informative’, ‘fun’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘a bit crazy’, ‘unusual’ by a range of people around the school (eclectic and funky as our cover clip ๐Ÿ™‚ )

For four days, three teachers (Simon Carabetta, Jaeik Jeong & myself) and about a dozen student-helpers (13 to 15 years old), put on a ’23 things’ of a kind for our school community to inform, teach and stir about ‘Web 2.0’ and its culture-changing potential that is starting to be realised in our societies yet (still) largely outside school walls.

To ‘walk the talk’, we not only set up stations, but also created the event’s wiki (largely student work!), even a Ning (well, sort of … ๐Ÿ™‚ ), got a bunch of students to start up their blogs, Twitter, set up RSS readers, fooled around with Skype, Etherpad, Twiddla, Moodle etc.. We had a number of educators from around the world dropping in virtually via Etherpad (copy of excellent contributions here, thank you SO MUCH to all who have contributed), we had encouraging tweets from around the world … all in all, we were ‘doing’ Web 2.0.

But out of the four days of messing up, playing, teaching, learning, succeeding, working together, guessing and generally having a ball, the last day will remain seared in my mind forever.

Until the last day, we had very few staff that came to the expo. They would bring groups of students down but then (most of them) didn’t quite engage with the expo in any way. “That’s for the kids, not for us…” was the general sentiment, with few notable exceptions. With the whole thing PRIMARILY for staff, we weren’t making the dent. The matter was raised at our regular morning ‘war briefing’. We made the decision that the last day was going to be ‘catch-a-teacher’ day.

It was pretty simple really. Student-helpers were encouraged to approach a teacher, invite them to the expo, try to work out and ask what the teacher might be interested in to learn…then demonstrate, teach and help them learn (about) a particular Web 2.0 tool and how it could be useful to them (the teacher). We also asked our student-helpers to note down on the central ‘tally’ board what teachers they taught what.

Students took up the challenge very seriously and we had them literally chasing teachers down the halls to invite, talk to, teach the teachers. With most teachers agreeing to come (even if out of courtesy if not curiosity) it was an incredible sight.

Catch-a-teacher ... live
Catch-a-teacher ... live
Catch-a-teacher ... come in
Catch-a-teacher ... come in

And this is what the tally board looked like after only a few hours!

21 teachers, 10 different tools, 4 hours - ALL by students!
21 teachers, 10 different tools, 4 hours - ALL by students!

Yes, I repeat: teachers are far less likely to say no to a student than a ‘tech integrator’ with a resonable (tech) proposition for teacher’s problem/idea in class. It just works!

Another highlight of the day was the technically so damn easy yet so profoundly different (to ‘regular school’) Skype conference of our ‘helpers’ with a good friend Ira Socol. I saw Ira tweeting, hooked up over Skype and within seconds the whole class said ‘Hello” to Ira and his dog (“with a weird name Sir…”) in Michigan. We soon shared a screen with Google Earth on it where Ira literally showed us around his neighbourhood, place he works, we zoomed out to see and learn a bit about the Great Lakes (some of the kids watching have not been further than a few blocks from their place in their life!), cracked a joke or two and after a few minutes thanked Ira for his time. After the event Ira tweeted:

Damn right!

I read the tweet aloud to claps, cheers and hollers of approval at our post-expo ice cream ‘debrief’ (yes, we did treat the awesome crew ๐Ÿ™‚

Yum! Well deserved.
Yum! Well deserved.

The sense of community, appreciation, working together, problem solving, the JOY of learning, particularly on the last day of our Expo was palpable. Many of our student-helpers ‘got off’ on it, dare say far, far more than many a lesson in the year just finished. There it was, a working rhizome of education I dream of, where roles/status/label/credit did not matter, only what we can learn, share, help, improve. Sure, it was quite an intense day, but one where the students saw the potential of what many of us have been banging on about for … years now.

Before we took our parting group photo, I asked the student-helpers is they would like to attend a school organised and run a bit like our expo – passionate, hard-working, following people’s interests, funny, a bit messy and unexpected, unclear at times but always valuing learning of all kinds: “Yes, sure, we’d love to…” I replied with just a line: “Demand it for your own kids.”

Just imagine! Or as a colleague quoted in his farewell speech yesterday: Logic will get you from A to B, imagination will get you anywhere.

And since I mentioned farewell speeches – I delivered mine yesterday too (copy here). I will miss the people of Belmont City College (and my first Moodle, my baby ๐Ÿ™‚ ). They matter.

Thank you!
Thank you!