Developing global competence – mine and others.

Learning and actively seeking out learning opportunities is part of who I am. Over recent years I have learnt in many ways; in school, at conferences, through teachmeets, online and F2F. Most of my recent learning whilst valuable and practical has been focused on learning and teaching, ICT tools and pedagogy. It has been quite some time since I participated in a learning opportunity that so greatly challenged my thinking.
I have spent the last few days at the Council of International Schools regional conference in Melbourne, “Educating for global competence”. Whilst the conference in its entirety was valuable it was listening to three presenters in particular, that provided me with the most challenge to my thinking. Fazal Rizvi, Eeqbal Hassim and Malcolm Fiahlo, provoked powerful thinking and delivered critical messages through a willingness to share their stories and challenge my assumptions, thinking and ideas on so many levels.

My takeaways …….
TAKEAWAY 1 – When we talk about Asian literacy, it Is not about learning a language, it is not even about Asia; it is about  building intercultural literacy to develop an understanding of and respect for difference, of our own and other’s cultures
To do that we have to be able to ….. feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations
And to do that ………… we need trust, perspective, balance, empathy, respect and knowledge about humanity (not facts)
And to have those …… We need to be teaching and learning competencies not just skills, which makes it so much more than merely learning a language.

TAKEAWAY 2 – Be very aware of my own and others assumptions.

  • I try very hard not to fall into the assumption trap
  • I try hard not to judge how others might be responding and reacting to situations  based on my values and beliefs
  • I try to view events through a logical, practical lens rather than an emotional, catastrophising one.

My aha moment was listening to Eeqbal explain how the Acehnese viewed the 2004 tsunami … to many of them the event was a ‘peace process’ not the tragedy that we saw.

TAKEAWAY 3 – To know and understand others, their values , beliefs, cultures, actions we have to do so from inside the fishbowl, not by observing from the outside. It is only through these opportunites can we begin to break down assumptions and generalisations. As educators we should be harnessing the potential of the digital world to make connections and step inside the fishbowl, just as we should be inviting others into our fishbowl.

TAKEAWAY 4 – I was really interested in the discussions around “unconscious bias”, which did make me question my own “unconscious biases” and I do have some. Interestingly most of mine are not race or culture related. The big question I am still pondering is …… when is it bias and when is it just life and how do you tell the difference? As educators we have such a role to play in making sure our “unconscious bias” is not transmitted to our students, but also to ask ourselves what are the “unconscious biases” of our community. If our students can develop an understanding of how generalisations, misconceptions and lack of knowledge can contribute to “unconscious bias” then maybe we can begin to break down the barriers. Once again the importance of using a conceptual lens to focus learning comes to the fore …. empathy, perspective, connections, respect.

An interesting point that was raised …… Australians generally discriminate much more on accent than race. What a great reminder that we should invest the time to listen properly and work hard to develop understanding. 

TAKEAWAY 5 – I don’t think I had ever thought about “meet” as a concept ….until now. The idea that through meeting we can develop a sense of identity, individuality and intercultural understanding, and minimise the likelihood of making generalisations based on limited facts and stereotypes. Through ‘meeting’ we can share our own narratives, our own histories. We all have a narrative, our own story of place or places that mean something, that are part of who we are, who our families and have contributed to our culture, our beliefs, our values. Growing up we were always known as the “early family”, we were early to everything, my father always had to leave extra early, just in case there was an emergency on the way. This is part of my culture, I am still early and my children are early. Maybe it is part of the Germanic blood that flows through my family from generations back – who knows? But what I do know is that it is part of the Johnstone culture and part of me. We need to spend time on a personal level building relationships, sharing stories, truly listening to others’ stories and providing time and opportunity for this to happen.

My final take away is the absolute importance of PURPOSE. Knowing why is so much more important than the what or the how! As we continue to travel down the path of supporting our students to become global citizens and internationally minded thinkers, I can’t help thinking we will be better off if we remember to share our stories, keep an eye out for ‘unconscious bias’, steer clear of assumptions and make the time to meet even if we feel uncomfortable doing so. That’s where the magic happens.


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Reports, a better way?

Reports, a better way

  1. Student reports every June and December for 30 years, how many hours I wonder? Now that I have stepped out of the classroom and into school leadership I am spending just as many hours proof reading reports that others have written. Is there a better way, I wondered?
    Queen’s Birthday Weekend, Melbourne 2013, I posted a tweet … I was thinking out loud …

  2. After a weekend spent proof reading reports – a question I ask myself .. Is there a better way to inform students and parents? #vicpln #ozed
  3. Is there a better use of my time? Would more time spent evaluating, reflecting on and planning for individual student learning, more time spent focusing on the future rather than writing about the past be more productive and effective? Is there a better way?

  4. @melcashen So we need to start a list #betterwaystoreportonstudentprogress No 1 – students write their own reports
  5. Seems others were thinking the same, asking the same questions …
  6. @medg56 Students and parents have access to ongoing feedback throughout the term. #betterwaystoreportonstudentprogress
  7. @melcashen @medg56 1 on 1 conferences with ur students each week? The doco or audio of conference is shared w/ parents that day via @edmodo
  8. @rakt @melcashen @medg56 we’ll be changing to ongoing online portfolios next year most likely. Just need the right platform.
  9. The responses on Twitter, led me to ask more questions. What is the purpose of reporting? Is a twice yearly report the most effective way? How can I make a difference?

  10. @rakt @melcashen @medg56 Victorian schools have autonomy over the way they report to parents now so push for change with ur Prin!
  11. And the big question …. Am I a typical parent? In retrospect I would have much preferred an ongoing update that was timely and relevant rather than a twice yearly report. Do our parents feel the same? And if they don’t, do we work with them to change their thinking?
  12. @rakt @medg56 I’d also be interested in knowing how parents would take this? I’d love to trial it but know parents wont take time to sign up
  13. @WicksTim @medg56 @rakt I think it should be a PLE focus – students/parents/teachers decide best way to feedback not one way for all.
  14. @medg56 @rakt @rosskall @richielambert We need to support parents through the change. Show them why there are better ways to report.
  15. MT @melcashen: @medg56 We need to support parents through the change. > so true but I wonder have we asked parents what they prefer?
  16. So what does this all mean … for now it means I continue to keep an eye on the trials being run by @rakt @richielambert @troymoncur and others. It means I go back and read @melcashen’s blog post on Why it’s time to say goodbye to report comments . It means I start sowing seeds and continuing to ask the question … Is there a better way?
  17. @medg56 @richielambert @rakt @melcashen Like the thinking here – student blogs, ePortfolios & self-assessments online #betterwaystoreport
  18. If we only do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got. What are you doing to change the status quo?

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Professional Learning that matters

I have been thinking a lot about professional learning lately. Changes in my role, the expansion of my PLN and unique collaborative opportunities have all contributed to this thinking. Professional learning has always been critical to who I am as a teacher, I value the opportunities for collaboration, challenge and growth as a teacher and a person that come from being an active participant in professional learning.  Recently moving from classroom teacher to school leader has meant I am much more aware of my responsibility for our school’s collective effectiveness.

In the Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders from AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership), the stated aim is to “change the professional practice in ways that improve the learning, engagement and wellbeing of every student in Australia.” An essential part of this is reframing professional learning in schools for maximum impact and sustainable change.

As a teacher of many years experience, I have no doubt that teachers DO want to take responsibility for and be actively engaged in professional learning.

As a school leader, I know how essential it is that we engage in and model effective professional learning and empower teachers in the building of a learning and development culture in schools and system wide.

I couldn’t agree more that professional learning needs to be relevant, collaborative and future focused.

I know from experience that professional learning between the hours of 3.45 and 5.00 is not necessarily the most successful option. I firmly believe that all teachers really do want to improve their practice and student learning outcomes – we just need to find the time, place, method, group, learning opportunity  … that works for each individual.

My big questions are …

  • How do we actually make this happen?
  • What does effective professional learning look like in schools?
  • What are the realities?
  • How are schools, leaders and teachers providing professional learning opportunities in schools that actually work?
  • What has been done in your school to build a culture that values professional learning.
I am interested to hear about creative time tabling, effective use of time, challenges to accepted practice, collaboration within school, across schools across systems, anything that empowers teachers, empowers leaders and has an impact on student learning. By sharing ideas and collaborating on building effective practice my hope is that we can begin to reclaim our image as professionals and support each other to be relevant, collaborative future focused teachers.

SO ….. Professional learning

share an experience that worked for you or in your school.

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A self indulgent reflection

I was privileged today to have the opportunity today to participate in a PLN (Professional Learning Network) workshop at the SLV. It promised to be a ‘challenging and interesting exploration of social media and the role of networks in changing education systems’  exploring our ideas around collaboration, networking and education systems. And that it was.

I came away asking more questions than I have answers for. That seems to be the story of my life – I can explain why I don’t like the status quo, why I want to be part of the change, why I want to be the grade four girl at the top of the ski run – but I still struggle with what the alternative looks like, sounds like and feels like.

As someone who has been in education as a learner and teacher since the BC (before computers) era I am continually exploring and challenging the ‘way I learn’ and the ‘who I am as a teacher’. There are many aspects of social media and networking that I still find challenging, yet upon reflection they are often the same things that I find challenging in real life. I thrive on listening (lurking), being part of other’s conversations, I love the challenges to my thinking, the new ideas, or old ideas with a new perspective but I continually struggle with the best way to articulate my thinking. I don’t want to be the person that takes and doesn’t give – but I am still working out what I have to give. Because all I seem to have is questions and not answers.

We joke in our family about my husbands propensity to be a ‘problem solver’. He was much happier when he finally decided that our youngest daughter was not a whinger – she was just stating facts. Therefore he no longer felt that he needed to solve her problems. 

This is how I have been feeling – that to be a networker I needed to be a problem solver, contribute answers, solutions and actions. My new thinking is that being a networker and a collaborator is not about having the answers, it is about ‘stating the facts’, about asking the questions. It is about the communication, the collaboration, the critical thinking and the networking as we explore our thinking. Is that where the answers come from?

I used to think …. that I had to have the answers, now I think … that the answers come from the power of the connections and the networks. And that the answers simply create more questions.

So what does this mean for ME …………

It means that I have to trust that what I have to say adds value to the network, it means that I have to tweet the thoughts in my head – because they have no traction if I don’t share them, it means I have to take risks online and it means I have to stop over thinking my half-formed tweets and just send them. It means I have to tip my skis over the edge and let them run …………………………..


Footnote : This blog has been my opportunity to reflect and explore who I was becoming as a learner/teacher  – a change of school, a change of role has been all consuming – it is time to start reflecting again.

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My story for #motm12

This story is only a beginning, not an end

Visit #motm12 to find out more

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Audacious? No : Anarchy? Maybe : Valuable? Absolutely

72 student, 3 teachers and 2 support staff make up our learning community this year. Only the 19 Grade 6 students had worked with us last year. We have 39 grade 5 and 14 grade 4 students.

Our plan was to run a couple of challenge days (whole unit, all day challenges) early in the year. Our challenge days have varied educational purposes mostly centred around student learning. However I have to confess that the two we are running at the start of the year day had the ulterior motive of releasing one of us to undertake assessment.

I happened to see a tweet last week from @Steve_Collis which led me to his blog post, The Most Audacious ‘Class’ I’ve Ever Seen, about a day he had witnessed at NBCS. At the time I was excited by the possibilities, but knew that with our mix of students and the fact that very few had worked in this environment previously it had the potential to be a challenging and maybe even disastrous day. But this year our mantra is “Be brave”.

So we did we decide to let our student’s loose with minimal teacher support and minimal direction in a format they were not used to. It certainly wasn’t because it looked like a fun thing to do, but because we actually wanted to find out about our students. Who were leaders, who could self manage, who displayed independence, persistence, problem solving skills, who could work collaboratively, who took responsibility for achieving group goals, who knew what it meant to work as part of a team and who was so far out of their comfort zone they couldn’t cope.

We learnt a lot about our students, a lot about our planning and have some very clear goals for student learning needs as we travel down the collaborative/challenge/problem based learning path.

What did we learn?
• We have a lot of work to do
• You cannot assume … when you ask teams to do a team building activity to get to know each other better, just after they have discovered they are stranded on an island, of course they are going to BUILD something
• Our students do not read written instructions very well – anything after about the first 10 words is not important – does that mean we have to change how we present information or guide them to be better readers of instructions or both?
• SO much about SO many of our students
• Not everyone thought it was great (one Grade 6 girl was heard to say – “if they think this is going to make us step up …..”)
• Everyone who is challenged, uncomfortable and confused reacts differently
• We have some amazing students
• Even big kids love the opportunity to build cubbies, boats and anything else they could think of

The panel discussion and debrief with the students after the event was a powerful experience. The opportunity to discuss their reactions when they arrived at school, what they did first, what their group did first, who were the leaders, what they would do differently next time was invaluable. The thoughtfulness and honesty of their responses was the first step to building a strong cohesive learning community

We asked our students what they thought the purpose of Stranded (Challenge day) was, their responses covered it all:
• Getting to know people
• Creativity
• Teamwork
• Teachers can observe us
• Collaboration
• Fun
• Working independently
• Communication

In the words of one of our students …. “My brain wasn’t working to its full ability when I was working in my group. I think this was because I didn’t know what to do some of the time and I was confused. I think if I do this kind of activity again I will be more calm and let my brain think properly. I have practised how to handle situations where things don’t go my way and I have practised working in a group and communicating with everyone. Overall it was fun, but it was a bit uncomfortable for me.”

Next week’s challenge day could be big – what are we doing? Don’t know yet, hoping for another twitter inspiration. But whatever it is – we have a very clear purpose. That is to build on the discussions around effective collaboration that we started with our students this week and facilitate opportunities for them to collaborate, next comes problem solving, decision making, creating, innovating and the list goes on.

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Flashmob @ Federation Square

Here is our moment to shine, 3 schools, 100 students, song and choreography shared online …. what a day.

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Reflections on PLPConnectU

I can remember attending the first F2F day and being somewhat daunted by the faces in the crowd. Educators I had admired from afar through my slowly developing PLN. The fact that my reason for taking on the challenge of PLP was because I wanted to ‘go global’, only added to my fear. These were educators that had taken that step and seemed so comfortable online. I wanted to step over that edge and open up opportunities for online learning for myself and my students.

PLPConnectU was the catalyst that gave me the opportunity to clarify thoughts around teaching and learning and bring together concepts I had been struggling to make sense of over recent years. I have been teaching for a very long time but the last few years have seen the greatest changes for me as an educator.

These are my musings as I try to make sense of the powerful learning that took place for me as part of this experience.

Sometimes my first choice is not necessarily the best

In the beginning, I remember contributing many ideas for PLP projects, had a few possible directions in my head, and then …..

I was away with no Internet contact the week the project ideas hit the wiki. This meant none of my first choices were still available. I have to admit I was bothered by this.

But everything happens for a reason. And the group I joined, the environment team ended up being pretty close to perfect. Perfect for me, because it was exactly what I needed. Teachers who also wanted the challenge of collaborating on line, teachers who wanted to get things happening, teachers who challenged thinking, who were good at articulating ideas and a coach who just seemed to provide exactly what we needed.

Remember to look upon every challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn

I can give up total control

I am a control freak, I used to spend hours planning lessons that ‘hit the mark’, achieved my purpose, delivered content in exciting, interesting ways, that engaged my students. Now I spend hours learning, exploring and working out how to give that control back to the students and still know where they are at with their learning, where they need to go next and what I can provide to support them.

This PLP journey has been the impetus to bring together many ideas that have been bubbling around in my head for a while. The elluminate sessions, the ning, the challenges to my thinking, the opportunity to question what I do all contributed to clarifying and changing my thinking around a number of education issues. Mainly that I should not, will not and do not control other people’s learning. However I can provide support, challenges, ideas, tools, knowledge, information, guidance and direction when needed and when asked.

We should each OWN our own learning and be responsible for the direction we take.

Learning is messy, challenging, uncomfortable and glorious

The uncertainty for me of no clear plans, structures or directions when we started PLP created very uncomfortable feelings. How would we know if we were getting it right? Who would decide what was going to happen? How would we know what to do? Being asked to work with a group of people I didn’t know or wouldn’t necessarily choose to work with was challenging. Yet I often ask this of my students.

It was messy, but as our team navigated our way through the mess, started to know each other, shared our goals and our skills, discussed, negotiated and challenged we could see the value of the process for us as learners. So much so we used the same process for our students. They too experienced much from that messy, uncomfortable not knowing what to do feeling and also got to know each other, shared goals and skills, discussed, negotiated and challenged each other, learnt the importance of clear and precise communication, found out you can never assume and walked away at the end with varying degrees of success.

How glorious to stand at Federation Square on Thursday as we prepared for our Flashmob and watch our student’s work on the big screen, the faces of our students as they saw themselves, each other and our schools up there for all the world to see. How glorious to listen to the buzz, hear the anticipation and feel the excitement as they waited for the signal that it was their time to shine. And then to reflect on the speed with which it was all over and the memories that would last for much longer.

For real learning to happen it has to be messy, challenging, uncomfortable and glorious

Failure is an option

I want to shout this from the rooftops and write it in large, bold, capital letters. This has been my biggest shift and my greatest challenge. For students, teachers, anyone to learn we have to be allowed to fail, to make mistakes, to not get things right, to not get things done, to do nothing, to change our mind, to change our goal and to get it wrong. If we don’t fail, we don’t learn to problem solve, to ask why, fight to succeed and to value success.

Learning is the trips, stumbles and falls on the journey not the arrival at the destination

Student voice is powerful

Another big mind shift has been opening up our planning to student voice. I realised if I was serious about students taking ownership of their learning, they had to have opportunities to be involved in planning for their learning.

I have had to do some deep thinking about what does it mean to plan with the ‘end in mind’. The end for me had usually been some predetermined task and/or creation that every student worked towards achieving. I hope for my future student’s sake I never fall in to that trap again. The end has become … what we (students and teachers) want to know and do and we should decide together how to get there.

We still haven’t got it right all the time but involving the students in term planning is a start. Working together to explore VELS, working out what that means, asking students how they want to learn, expecting them to be responsible for that, setting goals and success criteria together has led to many successes and some failures.

Our most powerful learning is coming from the failures and the endless questions we are asking ourselves. How do we support all students to be independent in their learning? Does it take longer for some students to take on responsibility for their learning, their failures and successes? Do we allow students enough time to succeed before we step in? How do we measure success? How do we maintain accountability? How do we cover the curriculum? What is essential learning?

We are educating for an uncertain future – but what is certain – is it is not the past

So to the environment team, I thank you for being an inspired group of hard working, passionate educators. We did good!

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G2C11 challenge

It is with some trepidation that I have chosen to take up the Global2 blogging challenge. Trepidation because – I am wondering how much time will I have to invest, can I add another thing to my plate, how far can the rubber band stretch before it snaps?

However, the next step in my journey is to become more active in building communities and building a network, it is time to give up lurking and time to start contributing. Without risk there is no learning – so here goes. I am committing to the G2C11 challenge.

A blog that I often visit is Students of Mitch Hughes. As an advocate of online learning and the power of Web 2.0 tools this blog is one I often show our junior teachers as a fantastic example of blogging in the junior grades. I have also discovered new ideas and tools from my visits to this blog. The use they make of video to share learning is inspirational.

This blog inspires me to be more proactive with the use of our 5/6 blog, which has ground to a halt recently. I think sometimes I spend too much time exploring different possibilities rather than sticking to one thing. We need to decide our purpose for our 5/6 blog and then make it happen.

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Not your usual Planning Day


  • 2 teachers
  • 22 students + netbooks
  • 2 data projectors
  • 2 laptops
  • Term 3 plans – sorted

One of those days …. you sit back and think WOW, this is what learning should be about!

At our school each teaching unit traditionally has a planning day to prepare for the next term. A few weeks ago my teaching partner and I decided if we wanted our students to take responsibility for their learning they needed to be part of planning day

Today was the day … about half our 5/6 students took up the invitation to attend, some reluctantly. We had made a decision that our school leaders (house captains) should participate. We had an incredibly representative group of students choose to join us. Should we have expected them all to attend? Maybe ….. but given that we weren’t sure how the day would go, we wanted the students that were there to be committed and enthusiastic. Will more students opt to be part of it next time? I would hope so. We started small – planned Integrated Studies and Writing.

What came out of the day ….

  • the value of using Back Channel to add to discussions and give a voice to all students ..Class planning Today’s Meet
  • students working together to understand VELS
  • our Integrated Studies goal for next term …… to understand how we affect the environment and what we can do about it
  • a range of ideas as to how we can achieve those goals
  • a recognition of the importance of providing choices in task and options for working styles and that one student’s challenge is not necessarily another’s
  • the importance of supporting students to build knowledge but recognising that they like to do that in different ways  (some want instruction, other’s like to explore for themselves
  • a Term 3 ‘writer’s festival … comedy, film & story’  –  the discussion that led to this idea was a perfect example of not settling for your first thought.
  • a very animated and sometimes heated discussion on homework – that is still to be resolved
  • a sense of excitement and anticipation about next term
  • the level of student involvement – everyone’s willingness to contribute
  • student’s ability to rise to the occasion

 My favourite comments for the day …..

 “We want to do something the teachers haven’t done before so we are all learning together”

“I have been waiting all year for something like this to happen”

“The people that don’t do homework shouldn’t get consequences because missing out on the things that we do and learn sort of is a consequence”

The planning is messy, the documentation is not formalised, but the ideas and understanding of where we are heading is clear. Will we do it again – absolutely.

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