Success: The power of coaching with growth mindsets

This thoughtful talk by John Wooden gives some valuable insights into ways in which we can get the best out of our learners. John Wooden is referenced in a number of books I’ve read recently, including Carol Dweck’s “Mindset: The new psychology of success” and Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code”. There are some great links between his words and the work that Dweck, in particular has developed. I met with a teacher recently who is working to develop a whole-school culture of growth mindsets, with teachers, students and parents & carers alike.

I am excited to see what the change will be as a result of this very deliberate work. It would be great to hear from other schools who are embarking on similar journeys, so please leave your comments below for everybody to share.

This talk is pretty much an all-encapsulating journey into the mind of a powerfully inspirational coach. Sit back and simply immerse yourself in the experiences and love of learning that he shares here.

Climate for creativity: permission to copy

Johanna Blakley offers some fascinating insight here into how we can make a distinction between creative innovation and copying. She explores the relatively free-of-copyright world of the fashion industry and suggests that it is this very freedom that forces innovative thinking and discovery. 

Within the context of the classroom, this open-sharing can be a real challenge. When we ask our students to research information that will inform their thinking, we are, in truth, asking them to first discover and second draw upon this existing knowledge to help them construct their own, new (to them, at least) knowledge. What we are desperate to avoid in this process, however, is a student simply copying the information that they discover and replicating what is already known. We want all our students to demonstrate a sophisticated degree of discernment in how they consider and select information as a part of their personal knowledge-construction.

When it comes to asking students to think creatively, then, what must we do? I think that Johanna’s observations here might help. She presents the case that in the least regulated industries, we find the greatest degree of innovation. Why? Because if your idea is easy to copy, then people will copy it. But they will do it within their own context, using the resources available to them and inevitably, it will be an adaptation of the original. It is at the point of adaptation that creative thinking takes place. Just as when 30 students are asked to write their own critical analysis of the same piece of prose, you know that you’ll get thirty different responses. 

This makes me consider the age-old difficulty of how we assess creativity. What must we ask in order to test the quality of creative thinking?

Well, Johanna’s talk prompted me to ponder this (and I am in no way certain as to whether this works or not, so bear with me, please)…

If you come up with something that is truly innovative, something that is underpinned by considered and sophisticated thinking, then this will be far harder to adapt and certainly, harder to replicate. In that way, it can stand alone and become a trend-setter in its own right and, if you’re lucky, not only stand the test of time but reach iconic status, and you with it. It is the depth of thinking that underpins the innovation that is put to the test here, alongside the creative output itself.

So I wonder how we go about assessing the quality of thinking (not limited to creative thinking alone, here). Once we have asked students to draw upon existing knowledge and to collaborate with each other to generate ideas, perhaps we can ask a few ‘test-the-thinking’ questions. These might look like this:

How easy will this idea be to copy? (Show me how you might do this)
How might you improve upon it and make it more accessible, more functional, more relevant etc? (Have a go at making the necessary improvements and adaptations and explain why you’ve made these decisions and changes)
What elements of the original idea will stand the test of time? (Identify these and explain the ways in which you think these elements will ‘stick’)
What might be created in time to replace this? (Create a design/ rationale/ proposal for a replacement idea/ concept/ design and explain how this supersedes the original)

The ideal conditions for this creative thinking to happen are openness, sharing and collaboration. A very different physical and pedagogical model from my own school experience. If this is the case, this serves as a great rationale to use when designing learning environments and considering our pedagogy so that it deliberately facilitates collaborative learning. 

As Johanna states in her talk, the democratisation of fashion leads to the development of trends; people copy others, but as they do, they place their own personal ‘twist’ on the original. To move from trend-follower to trend-setter, you need to stay ahead of the trends. It is here that new innovations are born. But what is also noticeable here is that it is the trend that drives the innovation, not the other way round. 

This makes me reflect upon moving my own pedagogical practice forward. It makes me wonder whether I can use this to reassure myself that the best kind of professional development comes about as a result of the prioritisation of teacher action research and enquiry in and between our own schools. When we think and discuss our world of learning in such an open and collaborative manner, then learning could well start to develop as our very own innovative global brand.  Perhaps it already has? As such it is characterised as a powerful movement membership to which is what everybody craves. After all, if we return to Johanna’s talk and the reasons why fashion is so copyright-free, learning is surely far too utilitarian to be copyrighted. 

So if we can continue to learn together within the open and accessible education community supported by Web 2.0 technologies (blogs and twitter at the very least) and through the establishment of professional learning networks then I reckon we will succeed in maintaining authentic participatory access to the brand of learning to as wide an audience as possible. 

Democratisation of learning is characterised by a shared ownership that cuts across all backgrounds, ages and culture. From within the existing masses of followers of our very own innovative learning brand, we may be starting to see the trend-setters emerging. These are the innovators, the collaborators and the applied ideologists. It is from here then, that new systems of learning will grow and develop which will indeed stand the test of time.

Well, that’s what I was thinking about when I listened to this talk. Thank you to @ICTtower for recommending it. 

Teaching with passion: passionate learning

Emily Pilloton shows just how an individual’s passion can influence and bring about significant change on a local, regional and national level. For me, this talk summarises what is really means to be passionate about a subject or activity. Her focus here is on how the power of teaching design can bring about positive engagement from individuals and communities. But I reflected on the fact that it is her passion for what she does that brings about real change above all else.

After I watched this talk the first time, I made a promise to myself to stop being apologetic about being SO into all-things-learning. It is hard but I really think it is working.

Whereas once I would introduce a video clip, a resource or a book to a group of teachers with the self-deprecating mantra, “…it’s because I have no life that I find these things interesting…” I now simply say, “Watch this, it’s really great. I think you’ll enjoy it., I did”. Or words to that effect.

I love to be inspired by people, young and old. It is for this reason that I watch so many people speak online or at conferences or read what they write. The inspiration I experience often comes not from the subject that they talk about but from the passion with which they talk about it. In this way, I manage to get my regular fix of inspiration from a diverse range of people from a diverse range of fields. I also know a lot more about quantum physics than I ever thought I would, but that’s another story.

What this talk does is show how passion can change not only your own life but the lives of those around us. Sir Ken Robinson talks about this very subject in his book, “The Element’. Perhaps if we have the courage to teach with such passion, we will also be and see just such changes occurring around us.

Policy & Practice: Tread softly on their dreams

Sir Ken Robinson: Part Two”. This talk follows up Sir Ken Robinson’s original TED talk with a call for a revolution, rather than reformation in education. I particularly like his request that we ‘disenthrall’ ourselves from that which we have become accustomed. The original text of the Lincoln speech he quotes is worth a read, and possible a wordle

All in all, with this talk, I suggest you just sit back, watch, listen and reflect. Oh, and don’t forget to make yourself a cup of tea to drink while you watch. And then go to to check out his video responses to tweeted questions about education. Oh, and then read some of his books.

And no, I’m not on commission. I promise.

Here’s those fabulous cognitive media peeps again. A 10 minute animation of his address on the same topic. 

Digital Learners: when potential meets potential

Patte Maes and Pranav Mistry (who has a fantastically designed website btw) from MIT shared this presentation of their work from the MIT lab. This is a great example of what provide us with; an insight into a world of cutting edge research and insightful thinking before it gets into the mainstream. I love this about TED. We get to see some of the raw stuff as well as some of the polished, ready-for-distribution stuff. But at its heart is the ‘Sharing of Ideas’. And isn’t that what schools are all about, after all?

Anyway, we recently used this film as part of a project with a cohort of ‘able but quiet’ year 8 students from 9 participating schools and they loved it. We asked them to research and then present a response to ‘What will the life of an average 15 year old be like in 2025?’. It was a long term project run collaboratively over 7 months. The students ran their own research groups and organised their meeting and deadlines without intervention from their adult facilitator. The effect of this particular film was to really open up their thinking and freed them up to get very creative about what they suggested might be invented by the time 2025 came around. As teachers too, it reinforced for us the fundamental need to develop digital literacy in ourselves as well as in our learners.



Leadership: learning entrepreneurs, stand up!

A delightful 6 minute talk from Derek Sivers (plus an extra at the end) which explains that it is those who follow who give leaders their power. A leader without any followers is a loner. This is a great talk that is worth showing anybody who is interested in making a change in their own lives or the lives of others.

It is also one of those films that can be shown, as it is, to students, to get them to reflect on peer pressure and influence and to encourage them to think about the reasons behind any of the choices that they make. 

I’ve written about the concept of a ‘learning entrepreneur’; a learner who is hungry not for material wealth and power but for intellectual wealth and power. I think this film does a great job of reassuring anybody who is excited by their own learning, but feels that this makes them an outsider. I am sure there’s a tie-in here with the powerful Apple adverts of the 80’s too…

Independent Learning: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose

Daniel Pink shares his research on autonomy here. With this, he provides us with a valuable insight into the ways in which business can get the most of out their employees by (a) engaging them (b) offering them freedom and (c) enabling them to get really good at stuff. On watching this talk, I wondered if it was possible to consider giving students the 20% time that Pink talks about.

I have since discovered, thanks to the power of Twitter, that many teachers are already testing out the 20% rule in their classrooms.

Rather than offering total freedom and choice in all things, which terrifies every single control freak amongst us (and let’s face, it, that’s most teachers!), perhaps we can divide our learning ‘pie’ up into: 

(a) Task

(b) Time

(c) Group

(d) Process

And offer choices to our students in one or two of these areas within a project or a lesson.

Alternatively, we could simply ask them to plan what they would do if they were given 20% of curriculum time within a subject or topic. Once they’ve planned what they are going to do, then it’s up to them to (a) deliver and (b) reflect on how well it went so they can make more of it next time.

It also makes me wonder what we would choose to do if we were given 20% of our working week to learn and develop something of our own choosing, regardless of its connection to the curriculum. Maybe we’d reveal a new cohort of talented musicians in the maths department or water-colour painters in the PE faculty? When we ask about the learning capacities of our students, do we get the time to reflect upon and ask the same questions of ourselves? Would this help us model learning to our students, I wonder?  

Now that would surely be the mark of a genuinely learning school.

And here’s the 10 minute RSA Animate version of Daniel Pink’s message…I use these to show what I mean by ‘now draw your learning’…not intimidating at all!

Importance of creativity: My learning catalyst

Sir Ken Robinson is for me, the catalyst for my on-going love affair with TED Talks. His first TED Talk, “Why Schools Kill Creativity” has been the same catalyst for many of my friends, colleagues and friends of friends and colleagues of colleagues..well, you know what I mean. I vividly remember the day I was shown the talk, as happens with all memorable learning moments. I had never come across the TED site and here it was, in its full intellectual glory, and the opening act for me was this talk. Since then, I’ve seen Sir Ken Robinson speak on a number of occasions, so there will inevitably be a few of his talks included in this collection. 

For me, this talk was a “YES!” moment. This was what I had been trying to argue for, rationalise and put into practice throughout my teaching career. I have since shared this talk as part of meetings, training or simply by recommending people make themselves a cup of tea, put their feet up for 18 minutes and enjoy. Many of my colleagues have reported that it has marked a “YES!” moment for them too. I hope it will for you if you haven’t seen it. If you have, I recommend using at as a reflection exercise:

How am I developing learners’ creative capacities in my practice?

What do I need to do to ensure learners feel safe to express themselves?

How does our curriculum create space for learner-involvement (as opposed to ‘participation’ or ‘engagement’) in their own learning?

Who’s curriculum is it?

What conditions for learning do I need to design that will nurture the capacities of all learners (adults and children alike)?

What have I done to develop my practice since I last watched this talk?

If nothing else, just enjoy.

Oh, and It’s very funny too.