Change Education Leadership Tech & Social Media

When teachers say they’ve not heard of Sir Ken

A couple of weeks ago, I asked a room full of Australian teachers if they’d heard of Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken - Do you know who I am

One person tentatively raised their hand – and even then, he didn’t seem too sure.

I was seriously taken aback, not least because I use Sir Ken’s name in some of my promotional material!

Dan has appeared alongside the likes of…

But it got me thinking…  these teachers really haven’t even heard of him?

And just to be clear, I’m not saying we should all be kneeling at the altar of Sir Ken. Whether you agree or disagree with his arguments, hang off his every word or are a bit over the whole creativity thing is really beside the point.

The point is you’ve probably heard of him. But what about your colleagues?

If you’ve landed on this post courtesy of Twitter, I’m betting that you think I’ve made this up – after all Sir Ken has over 200,000 followers, most of them teachers. As if a teacher – let alone a room full of teachers – wouldn’t have heard of him. That’d be like Luke Skywalker not being au fait with Yoda’s body of work. luke and yoda

But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Twitter can be something of an echo chamber – that is – pretty much everyone is saying the same things about education over and over. With the constant reinforcement it’s easy to start thinking that this is how all educators think.

I believe that Twitter and other social media forums are the real drivers of professional learning – for those who connect – but what about the vast majority of teachers who aren’t connected in this way?

How do you spread the word to your less connected colleagues – in a way that genuinely influences the practice of your organisation?

And just in case you don’t know Sir Ken, check out this talk. And by the way, I’ve just been confirmed as a keynote speaker alongside him next year! 🙂

Education Engagement & Motivation

Kids don’t WANT to be engaged – do they?

Originally written for this week’s Generation Next NewsletterToilet engaged

Whilst in Denmark last week I had the chance to meet and share ideas with different schools and organisations around the concept of student (and staff) engagement.

Over breakfast with the Department of Pedagogy at the University of Aarhus, one researcher told me of his study that showed that – whilst many teachers and thinkers (myself included) are suggesting students should be allowed more autonomy in education to find their passions and develop goals around their areas of interest – students report not wanting this.

These 16 and 17 year-old students reported wanting in fact needing to be directed as to what they should be doing, even as far as to what they should be passionate about!

So does this mean that those like myself who are pushing for more autonomy in schools are wrong?

You could argue yes.

But I’d suggest that this research could serve as a wake-up call.

Here we have teachers trying to engender and develop intrinsic motivation in their students, and the students are rejecting it.

What becomes of these students when they leave school.

Will they find the same support networks in the workplace or tertiary education?

My experience says no, they won’t.

Intrinsic motivation is an essential component of engagement. If we are genuine about wanting engaged students in school, then we must encourage autonomy from an early age before they become conditioned to having everything done for them.

Even their thinking.

Engagement & Motivation Leadership

Do other schools think more of you than your own?

When I’m in schools, I always recognise that the teachers I’m working with are the experts on their

As well as being expert educators, they understand the idiosyncrasies of their colleagues, leaders, students and wider community.

However, what I’m finding more and more is that within schools, teacher “expertise” is often not recognised outside of their perceived domain.

In other words, teachers limit ourselves and each other by our job title. We are there to teach our subject(s), do playground duty and write reports. There is little attention paid to actively recognising and nurturing innovation, collaboration or creativity.

Up until a few years ago this meant that people just got on with what they were paid to do and thought little more of it.

However, with the advent of social media, and Twitter in particular, this has changed.

Online, I regularly see PE teachers from one school collaborating with English or Drama teachers from another. Sharing their ideas, experiences etc. Maths teachers developing innovative ideas with art teacher.

Yet when I ask about such collaborations taking place within the walls of their own school, very often there’s not much doing.

Which led me to ask this question (on Twitter obviously!):

Which led to some interesting debate on Twitter over the weekend… here are the picks…

So with these thoughts in mind, I sought the opinion of school leaders who I KNOW value and actively encourage autonomy, creativity and innovation in their staff.

Ben Jones – Head of Teaching & Learning in Public School in Western Sydney

Stephen Harris – Principal of Northern Beaches Christian School

And to finish with, I couldn’t go past this one… I LOVE the sentiments expressed by John his tweet.

John Goh – Principal of a Public Primary School in Western Sydney



Three Things That Could Get You Sacked

(But do them anyway!)

1. Stop Planning

Not entirely, obviously. But relax a little. Give your students some choice in what they do, how they do it, when they do it and with whom they will work. Try having students design the way in which they will demonstrate their understanding. Or if you’re feeling very brave, have your students design the questions they have to explore. Now more than ever we need people who can ask the right questions.

Google Project Based Learning or check out Design Thinking to get your creative juices flowing…

2. Stop Grading

Grading kids’ work destroys their innate desire to learn for the sake of learning. It eats away at their ability to think creatively or critically for fear of getting it ‘wrong.’ Stop it. Most guidelines tell us we need to report to parents via a grade twice A YEAR – not twice a day.

For more of my thoughts on grades, check this out. 

3. Encourage Your Kids to Chat Online to Strangers

I’m fed up with adults hammering kids for ‘inappropriate’ use of technology and in particular – social media. Teachers can’t teach it (literally – social media is banned in far too many schools) and parents won’t talk about it – they plead ignorance. So how is it fair that we then berate our kids when they inevitably stuff up?

Not only should we be teaching kids about how to use social media appropriately, but by creatively incorporating it into our teaching, we can show them why it isn’t just for posting nude pics, or disparaging comments.

Learning about Antartica? Skype with a scientist in Antartica.

Encourage social action by building a webpage or social media campaign.

I call this Pedagogy with Purpose.

The basis for these ideas come from self determination theory that says that for kids to be genuinely engaged they need to be intrinsically motivated – and for this to be the case, kids need a sense of autonomy (stop planning), mastery (stop grading) & purpose (chatting online to strangers).