Making my blog work for me again…

I have been immersed in a number of very engaging and, unsurprisingly, ‘Full On’ projects for a few months now. As a result, my thinking has deepened, my focus has shifted and my butterfly brain (though not attention-span, I hope) is currently taking me into both new and renewed areas of work. The impact of this is that I haven’t posted for quite some time. I tend to blog only when I have a near-fully-formed mega-post. It turns out, that just isn’t happening right now, so I need my blog to serve me a little better (rather than make me feel guilty for not feeding it). I am involved in a number of interconnected projects at the moment and I think its time that my blog started working for ME, rather than me feeling like I was working for IT.

The result? I’m going to take a ‘post-as-I-discover’ approach – much shorter posts, sometimes with a resource/ video or with a link to an article or piece of thinking. I’ll do my best to add context and through this, a rationale as to why this connects with my thinking and how it might influence/ inform me but the finished product may have to wait or maybe that’s where you the reader comes in? On reflection, my tendency has always been to post near-finished ideas, thought-pieces or practical approaches, ready for consumption.

Right now, I need my blogging to work differently for me. In doing this, I intend to be far more open about my thought-processes and the ideas that catch my eye along with what they connect with that I already have in mind or that I am currently working on.This is far more authentic and reflective of how I work within my own school and with schools and organisations around the country.

To begin this new approach…

So, I’m doing a big piece of work investigating how a group of schools might go about designing and implementing a co-designed Learning Commons at the moment. This project attempts to synthesise research findings, learning models and principles that both underpin and inform the BIG THREE organisational elements of learning:

  • Curriculum
  • Pedagogy
  • Assessment

In my reading this morning, the Connected Learning Organisation caught my eye. I’ve embedded the infographic below which gives a nice summary of the work they are currently leading. It might be of interest, on a large-scale, to anybody involved in taking a sytems-led integrated approach to the design of learning models for 21st Century learners and society. On a smaller-scale, anybody who;s keen to set up REAL learning projects would do well to consider the principles they use in the design of any multifaceted project-based learning opportunity.

Connected Learning

Creative Commons License This Connected Learning Infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. You may Share and Adapt it, but you must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.

Harnessing learning power through video

We (a collection of ambitious educators including the marvellous Jim Smith author of “The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook”) ran a student conference in 2008 with 100 students from 10 secondary schools. Their task over the two day residential was to ‘RE-BRAND LEARNING’. Above is just one of the outcomes from one group. Bear in mind, this was a group of learners who hadn’t met each other before the conference and came from very different schools and backgrounds. Yet when it came to learning, they were pretty clear about what they wanted…

The new site launched earlier this month by TED-ED has a call-out for videos to inspire learning and learners in the true spirit of As you know, I’ve put together TEDucation which attempts to use the wealth of ideas from all the TED talks to reflect on and adapt to learning contexts. This project is a natural next step for TEDsters across the globe. There’s a place to engage through the TED-ED forum and a growing number of questions to respond to.

So, if nothing else, the TED-ED video opportunity could be a fabulous student project, and it could be very naturally linked to the amazing work of the #purposed team (@purposeducation).

“Make your own short film about what YOU think is the purpose of education.” and upload it to a global audience. Now THERE’S an opportunity for some awesome learning.

Creatively, science needs to catch up with art

I’ve been doing a load of work on creative learning and thinking and, parallel to this, some research and development into the inter-relationship between curriculum subjects. If you ever want to demonstrate the absolute need for cross-curricular projects and for collaboration between subject experts, external visitors from professional fields, here’s a fantastic TEDx video from Charles Limb for you. (thanks to @limeandginger for tweeting it to me)

The questions he ends with (as all good scientists should end with questions rather than answers, shouldn’t they?!) are as follows:

What is creative genius?

Why does the brain seek creativity?

How do we acquire creativity?

What factors disrupt creativity?

Can creative behaviour be learned? 

Now there’s some excellent enquiry questions to get stuck into…


Holiday Twitter Time

As I am on annual leave at the moment (I’m in the second of a two week break), I haven’t posted for a while. This doesn’t mean, however, that I have managed to switch off. Oh no.

I’ve been reading ‘Multipliers’ which I mentioned in my previous post, and it has some interesting points about nurturing talent through effective leadership which I am busy formatting for a classroom & school-based context. I’ve also recently purchased a book, “Developing A Self-Evaluating School Practical Guide” as a result of making a connection with the author, Paul Ainsworth @pkainsworth on Twitter (yes, again, another example of the pervasive and far-reaching influence of Twitter). I’ll start devouring this properly over the next few weeks, but at first glance, it looks like an incredibly useful resource for all schools – middle and senior leaders alike, who want to develop a culture of ‘active reflection’ (I hope that phrase works). I enjoy following @pkainsworth for his Twitter links, RTs and recommendations. He is also a cricketer, so for that alone, he gets a follow!

Signing off to rejoin my holiday ‘…it’s all about learning…’


“RESEARCH WEEK” for Confident Communicators

Since the launch of the Confident Communicators’ project (see previous post on February 24th), I have been reflecting on the PLTS that the students are developing throughout this long-term project and it is abundantly clear that of ALL the PLTS, the skill of being an EFFECTIVE PARTICIPANT is the singular learning skill in the spotlight. What will be interesting to reflect upon, however, will be the learning DISPOSITIONS necessary for learners to develop. Key questions we need to ask when we are observing the learning of the students need to be focused on the learning behaviours that students are displaying that allow the project move forward.

All of the teams are having their learning journeys documented by the AST team, using enhanced This involves the teams taking photographs of key moments of their project work and the ASTs undertaking interviews with the students to unpack how the process is helping them learn. The early edits of these are already flagging up the ‘make-or-break’ elements of the challenge for the teams being hinged upon the EFFECTIVE PARTICIPATION of the team members. They mention their need to communicate effectively with each other and those who can help them with their research. They also talk about listening to each other, organising their thoughts and ideas and really working together as a research group to make sure they make the necessary progress.

All the teams are off to The Pervasive Media Studio ( in Bristol next week. This is a structured research visit that we have set up for them to support their research and give them an experience of field research and hands-on learning. We’ll have lots to report about this particular experience by the end of the week.

Creative collaboration

Over the past 18 months, I have been involved in one of the most powerful projects in my career to date. At first glance, the role of facilitating a group of educators as they explore questions related to creative learning may not appear so very innovative. On closer inspection, however, any enquiring eye will discover a powerful and very real example of teachers and teaching assistants collaborating to build a purposeful and safe learning community. The result of which is having a powerful and sustainable impact on learning opportunities for children and on the professional confidence of all the adults involved.

I have learnt so much about the importance and value of investing time and space to provide quality regular opportunities for educators to reflect on, develop and evaluate their practice. At times it has felt so slow in comparison to the frenetic nature of everyday school life that I have worried that we’re not achieving anything. I have been acutely aware of my responsibility to demonstrate concrete outcomes (the production of ‘stuff’) in order to justify teachers’ time out of the classroom and away from their classes, but I haven’t known what ‘stuff’ we could present. Instead, I have focused relentlessly on documenting the conversations, discussions and reflections of the group members. I have subjected them all to their own documentations including writing, video and digital photography and insisted that they provide their own sources of evidence of impact throughout the meetings. They have kept their own learning logs, recording ideas they pick up from each other and things they have tried with their own classes and other colleagues back in school. I have set homework for them and required them to take a ‘Creativity Pledge’ at each meeting to state what they had done, the impact of this, their next steps and some possible outcomes. It has been rigorous for all involved, but this approach has, without doubt, sustained a purposeful, thoughtful and very very safe learning community.

I hope that the findings that the research group produce provide a way forward for all schools to support innovative developments in teaching and learning and take 21st century learning by the scruff of the neck once and for all. This is an 18 month snapshot and there will, I know, be much, much more to follow…

I {heart} Futurelab

This is a great thought-piece that we will be using for our ‘Confident Communicators’ Project. The teams of Year 8 students have been challenged to research the future and this film will help stimulate their thinking and discussions. Thank you, Futurelab! I highly recommend their work – why not make yourself a cup of tea and set aside a chunk of time to explore their work if you haven’t been there before OR been there for a while.

Making learning sticky (inspired by ‘Made to Stick’

After reading Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point’ a few years ago, a group of us started to talk about ‘making learning sticky’. It was around the time that Mick Waters, then Head of Curriculum at what is now QCDA, was talking about ‘Making Learning Irresistible’. Since then, we have used this concept as the focus for many discussions around learner motivation, pedagogy and use of new technologies and Web 2.0.

Yesterday, I was following up a number of references to books from the world beyond education and ‘Made to Stick’ was one of them. The website is interesting, particularly the way in which the Heath brothers make links between communicating an effective an powerful marketing message in the commercial and business sectors and how the education sector constantly strives to engage students in their own learning.

To be honest, this is right up my street, all this connectivity stuff. I think there needs to be a lot more cross-over between what we know in education about organisational change, motivation and learning and how business, industry and the public sector address these issues. Anyway, I really like this pdf and I’m now working on translating it into ‘education-speak’ for future work. The book ‘Made to Stick is available on Amazon. (Click in the centre of the box to read in full screen).