Re-designed & Re-defined

how-to-change-web-hostingWe all need a little reinvention from time to time.

As my humble little blog moves into its third year of existence, the decision has been taken to give it a long overdue makeover.

If I have not said thank you for reading for a while then, let me say it now.

Thank you.

I really appreciate all of the support the blog receives and have missed posting as regularly as I had been prior to the physicaleducator.com blog awards in 2014 (my last post would you believe?)

A major (and tricky) part of this re-design was re-naming the site. Formerly makingpefizz.com, it has now been modified: makinglearningfizz.com.

After tracking the content of posts it became clear that learning and leadership dominated the themes of most posts, albeit through the lens of my beloved learning area Physical Education.

In future posts, I predict learning and leadership will continue to dominate, but I have no intention of leaving out my weekly PE experiences.

In my role as Acting Deputy Head this year, it would be fair to say I have not had the opportunity to blog as much as I would like (the old “no time” story, but that’s for another post).

In truth though, my blogging hiatus has been a little more deliberate.

I knew the site needed a new direction and I wanted to ensure I had carefully considered what Blog 2.0 should look and feel like. It led me to plenty of research and I have engaged in a super-global-blog-safari which has been an extremely enriching experience.

Looking globally at some of my favourite edu-thinkers has also been a huge inspiration and has led me to a clear vision for what I’d like to bring to these pages in the future.

I am already excited about some of the projects in the pipeline and I am committed to creating and reflecting on a more concise and regular basis- starting today!

Let me know what you think and stay tuned for more coming soon!

The #PhysEd Awards 2014

PEawards2014I can remember the moment vividly.

I was standing at the top of Mount Buller in the Victorian Alpine region, during the Vic Inter-schools Snow sports Competition, waiting some of our kids to compete in their skier cross event and I took a peek at my phone messages.

One stood out, from Joey Feith (I don’t get the chance to talk to, or message, Joey nearly enough, but he’s one of those guys, when he messages, you read it.)

It said, “congrats buddy, you won best blog, send me a 1-min video speech.”

To say I was on top of the world is true in more ways than one.

I have to admit though, my first reaction was “there must be some kind of mistake!”  I was up against Andy Vasily, Nathan Horne and Ash Casey as a finalist, so how on earth could www.makingpefizz.com have won?

If I’m really honest, the shock of being nominated as a finalist was almost as memorable, I awoke one morning to a barrage of twitter messages, which is unusual for me!

Anyway, as I hopefully conveyed in my virtual acceptance speech below, I was, and remain, truly humbled and honoured for the site to have some acknowledgement from the #PhysEd community.

So how to repay this?

A tribute to others.

As I reflect on my year of blogging (and teaching), I came to the simple realisation, the same one I do often, which is this…

A huge part of any development and improvement I experience as a teacher, learner, blogger and as a person is down to the contribution and investment in me by other people.

I honestly believe this, and since connecting online (and in person) with a host of global, inspiring, smart and passionate educators I have been very lucky to be part of professional learning, conversations, projects and friendships that have helped move me forward in many ways.

Three of whom were nominated with me as finalists for the award.  In my opinion, I would have come a very proud 4th and here’s why.

 

Andy Vasily

vasily

I remember when I first found Andy’s blog www.pyppewithandy.com I was like, “this guy is INSANE!  It was like he had collected the worlds most valuable stories about teaching #PhysEd and started a website on this theme.  The only thing is, they are HIS experiences.  I couldn’t stop reading.

To the point where I sent an email off to him, thinking there would be an outside chance I may get a response.  Within 24 hours he had responded with words of thanks, encouragement and a little push to join the sharing bargain. I actually believe it was that return email that started www.makingpefizz.com

Fast forward 18 months, many conversations, emails, google hangouts and viber 2-ways.  there I am standing beside him, teaching PE together, to his classes, in China.  See what we got up to here.

Now if that doesn’t demonstrate the power of connection, I don’t know what does.

I learnt so much on that trip and continue to do so from Andy every day.

Thank you.

Andy was last year’s best blog winner and took out the top contributor award this year.

 

Nathan Horne

Nathan

Nathan is a #PhysEd genius. I genuinely mean that.  The way he thinks about hacking #PhysEd makes my brain hurt.  He also just happens to be a really great guy.

Often I’m asked to present workshops about IT integration in PhysEd and even after hours of prep I often feel a little underprepared. The reason is because I know about the kind of things going on in Nathan’s gym.  He has this amazing blend of IT knowledge and a deft touch for its application to PE in the most meaningful way, especially when it comes to inquiry learning.

If you think you are tech savvy, you need to connect with this guy and you’ll probably find there’s another level.

The most impressive thing is that he learns most of the stuff by himself simply by being a great problem finder/solver, huge amounts of tenacity and a desire to never stop trying to make things better.  And he is a perfectionist.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Nathan for a day as he travelled through Melbourne last year, we hung out for the day enjoying our favourite Australian craft beers, and talked about PE for hours.  I could have talked to him for hours more.

 

Dr Ash Casey

ashc

While I have not had the opportunity to meet Ash in person, his work has always impressed me greatly.

As a lecturer and teacher of pre service teachers, I feel that the students graduating out of Loughborough University are in wonderful hands and most likely prepared better than I ever was.

Most of what I have learnt about teaching, and teaching PE, has been learnt on the job and by connecting with other people. By reading Ash’s brilliant and informative blog www.peprn.com (theres also his podcast) I feel like he genuinly understands both sides of the acadamic- practitioner perspective.

As a result he inspires me to connect more with evidence based research and challenges me (and plenty of others) to continuously reflect on, question and critique our own programs and practices.  His work and views provide a compass for best practice.

He has been able to engage in what I would term “big brain thinking” whilst managing to build relationships with teachers from around the world to help generate a better future for #PhysEd.

I hope to connect in person with Ash one day, I have a host of questions ready for him!

So given my perspectives on the above #PhysEd superheroes, you can hopefully appreciate what a wonderful, yet unexpected, experience it was for me to win best blog of 2014.

 

I cannot finish the post without offering a huge thank you to Joey Feith the man behind the awards at www.thephysicaleducator.com Joey works tirelessly to “raise the bar” in #PhysEd. He is the ubiquitous face of global #PhysEd.  How he manages all of the things he does is a mystery to us all (he teaches full time of course too), but I sincerely hope he continues to contribute for the long term because his work is having serious cut through.

I thank all of you for reading, voting and for being a part of this amazing community.

 

Evolve or Dissolve #EruptiveAction

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 11.31.42 amOur (high school) graduating class of 2014 started prep in 2001.  You don’t need me to tell you that 13 years ago, the world was a very different place. Indeed as our graduating class were kissing goodbye to their parents for their first day at school, Steve Jobs and co were launching the iPod.

No not the iPad or iPhone, that’s right… the iPod!  Interestingly, Apple recently announced they are not making them anymore.  So if you happen to still have one of those little babies, hang onto it, it’s a relic!

But how does teaching compare from then until now?

How do schools compare from then until now?

How does education in general compare from then until now?

I have my answers.

Let’s take a wee peek at some of the revolutions in life, and interesting developments since our preps of 2001 became the class of 2014;

  • Phones now cameras built in
  • iTunes was created
  • YouTube has been invented
  • The iPhone has come into the world
  • The list goes on, click here for a further walk down memory lane.

*Credit -daily infographic

So, it begs the question.

For what future are we preparing next year’s preps? And I don’t mean what are we talking about doing, I mean what are we actually DOING.

In general terms education and schools haven’t (really) changed in the 150 years they have existed.

(rant warning…)

Oh, hang on. I apologise. We do paint the classrooms every year and order new stationary.  And I have to concede also that some schools have ICT and mobile devices, most of which are used to substitute new ways of doing the same old things.

We have been able to expertly substitute the worksheet for a “game”, which is wonderful because it cuts down on marking, keeps the kids busy (and quiet) and the cherry on the top- it has flashing lights.

The result is that we are “churning out” kids along a conveyor belt ready for an industrial age which has passed us by.

Actually, Eric Hoffer said it better;

LearNED quote

(ok…rant over)

So to the action.

Seth Godin, Ken Robinson and a host of others have talked a great deal about the problem (you can add my above rant to theirs, albeit less articulate).

Godin actually said about the possible solutions “I’m in the compass business, not the map business.”

Well who is in the bloody map business then? Because words without action will lead us to the same fate as blockbuster video.  Actually, I would say we’re lucky schooling as a whole can’t go out of business.

My answer…us.  That’s right the teachers.

I’m calling on ‘the insiders’ to engage in some #EruptiveAction.

Lava-erupting-from-the-Puu-Oo-vent

I have created this concept from the philosophy of disruptive thinking, but have modified the term to hopefully force our ideas to become more actionable.

Like a volcano, it’s not a news story if a volcano “might erupt one day”.  It’s a news story when it does.

I would like you to share with me via comments below or any other social media platform the stories or links to ways in which teachers (the lone nuts), students, schools, districts or education systems are doing things differently. Tag items with #EruptiveAction

I will collect and compile a list of success stories to help all of us (myself included) push for, and take, action in our school communities.

I will then store and share all #EruptiveAction stories with our global community.

Perhaps together we can start a 10x movement from within.

Thank you for reading and thank you in advance for sharing.

If we know what works, then why aren’t we doing it?

successaway

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to attend a book launch to celebrate the latest release from author and family friend Maxine McKew.

Maxine is best known as the feisty politician who became only the second Australian politician ever to oust a sitting prime minister (John Howard) from his seat as an MP.

Following a successful career in national politics, she has since joined “the good fight” for quality education and now spends her days as a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education.

Maxine is the tenacious type and, to use a sporting analogy, the kind of player you definitely want to be on your team.

I am not writing specifically to push Max’s book, but while I’m on the subject, “Class Act” should definitely be on your school holiday reading list. Get a copy here.

Another of the highlights of the book launch was my chance meeting with educational research royalty, Professor John Hattie. I’m sure Prof Hattie requires no introduction to those reading the pages of this here blog, but if you need to know more about the great man, read it here.

photo

This chance meeting was serendipitous in some ways as our brief exchange collided with my current immersion challenges related to “Moonshot Thinking” for my upcoming experience at Google Teacher Academy (see previous blog post for more on that).

As I reflected on Hattie’s years, and years, and years of research, I was transported not exactly to the moon, but crashing back to earth.

With a thump.

The gap between what we know and what we do in education is astounding.

Of course this is a generalisation and there are hundreds of innovative, research based, successful teachers and learning programs happening all over the place, some of which are eloquently case studied in Class Act.

I consider myself very fortunate to be part of a school community that puts student learning (and thus teacher learning) at the top of the pile of priorities. We have numerous weekly encounters in which to share ideas, review student work, challenge, observe, critique, support and to simply share what’s working and what’s not.

We are genuinely encouraged to ‘Know Thy Impact’ (Hattie 2012) and to prove it.

As a result of my school situation and my presence as a connected educator on social media, I have been guilty of existing in what my GTA pal Claire Amos has referred to as an ‘echo-chamber’ of so-called good practice. Claire used this term in reference to our global interactions as teachers on social media, explaining that a constant affirmation of everyone thinking and acting in the same way (albeit effective and innovative) does NOT necessarily provide for progress or cut-through on a large scale.

I agree.

In simple terms, it’s like the world’s richest people teaching each other how to make more money.

So my question is; (and perhaps I have arrived back at some Moonshot Thinking)

If we know what works, why aren’t we doing it?

My reference to WE includes all of us, teachers, students, parents, school leaders, and even architects who design and build the places in which we learn. The whole school community has a responsibility.

You will notice I left out politicians. This was deliberate. With all due respect, I’m not sure they are actually capable of making any substantial (moonshot) improvement, on the scale of what’s required, which I concede sounds strange, given that’s kind of what they exist to do.

I do meant this with all due respect, I think some pollies may be personally capable, I just think that the way politics works actually prevents major and innovative reform when it comes to education.

If teachers and school leaders are to be the brave, heart surgeons of education, then the politicians will likely continue to be the plastic surgeons, taking care of the physical looks, the things that happen around the edges, while in honesty changing little. The sort of things Hattie referred to as “The politics of distraction.”

As I move ever closer to my moonshot project at GTASyd2014 I am committed, not only to thinking big and bold, but also to think about what such change, innovation, improvement on scale of 10 times might actually look like in the classrooms, playgrounds, gyms and playing fields of our school community.

I hope to get stuck into the following kind of thinking;

“I think this will really work, now how can we do it?”

Google Teacher Academy #GTASyd 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 2.52.05 pmA few years back I set myself a goal to become a Google Certified Teacher.

I know we talk to our students a great deal about goal setting but often I wonder about how seriously we, as teachers, take the concept when it comes to our own learning.

In my experience, the process of goal setting has been more of a school-enforced procedure. Over the years I have had many a “professional learning plan” neatly complied and then duly tucked away in a drawer for review at a later stage (in honesty, sometimes the “later stage” never arrives!”). If this is the case then there is a value, system and process problem along the chain.

Fortunately, our school are operating on a more robust and realistic level these days, thanks in part to my colleague @RachelGeorge38 Our language and actions are now directly related to smart goals, regular ‘checking in’ conversations and a genuine approach to pursuing goals that enhance learning for the STUDENTS and not just the teachers.

As an example, how many times have you seen a teacher’s PLP that states something like “I want to get better at using I.T.”

Meaningless, lacks specificity, deadline-less, no way of measuring etc etc.

Aside from school derived improvement schemes though;

What goals have you set for your own learning? (today, this week, this term, this year, 10 years?)

What aspects of education excite you?

What are you curious about?

What would you like to be an expert on?

On which things can you offer value and expertise for your colleagues?

What makes you / will make you stand out from the crowd of average teachers?

For me, the idea of radical change in education is something I’ve become increasingly interested in as my experience grows.

The work of Michael Fullen, Sir Ken Robinson, Seth Godin and Ewan Macintosh (fellow Scotsman) have inspired my to think differently, and somewhat disruptively about the question, “What is school for?”

Enter Google.

A more contemporary, forward thinking, innovative organisation you would struggle to find.

I’ve often wondered what it may be like if Google opened schools of their own.

As a result, attending Google Teacher Academy became a dream that I was determined to pursue and realise. So when the opportunity arose to apply in region for Sydney 2014 I felt the time was right.

So on Friday August 15th, you can imagine my delight to receive the following mail;

GTA

Congratulations!

 

You have been selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney. After reviewing your application, we believe that you have the commitment and passion to grapple with some of the biggest education challenges we face! The team is excited to have you join us in September 2014 at the Google office in Sydney, Australia.

Without giving too much away, the process of application was both demanding and fun. Here’s a sneak peak.

Question 1. Provide your 6-word memoir.

Out of interest, what would yours be? (leave it as a comment below, go on I dare you!)

One of the most well known, and most public, parts of the application process is the one-minute video.

Here’s mine… (not perfect by then again, neither am I!)

There’s always an element of mystery and surprise over the content of GTA’s around the world, which is cool. But overwhelmingly there is a strong purpose to make sustainable change in a positive way within your school community.

There is also a responsibility to continue to give back to the community after your accreditation, be it as a mentor to other GCT teachers, as a leader of GAFE summits, or simply as an ambassador for change within in your own school.

This is not your everyday turn-up-and-fall-asleep PD session.

With No Tosh as part of the learning and mentoring team, I am excited to learn more about design thinking and to meet a whole new network of educators who think in ways that very few do.

To sign off, I wanted to provide a taster of the theme of #GTASyd 2014.

I can’t wait to update you on our Moonshot Thinking…

 

Without Failure There Is No Success

Before seeing the below video clip of JK Rowling’s Harvard University commencement speech, I had only ever read her fictional work.

Harry Potter is a life’s work of which any writer would be proud.

But it was the non fictional story of her own life, that laid the foundations for an inspirational address to Harvard graduates back in 2009.

Even now, 5 years on from her speech, her advice, insights and reflections are still so relevant to the students we teach (as well as to the colleagues we work with) and I wanted to share it with you all to provide some further affirmation that is definitely ok to get things wrong.

Without allowing failure to become my key objective (we never try to fail), I seem to find ways of failing a lot in my role as a teacher, especially when it comes to classroom innovation.

No big deal, everyone survives.

Indeed, I would say its the principal calling card of a life long learner.  Having said that, I always fail safe in the knowledge that what I was striving for was something greater, more meaningful or valuable for the kids I teach, and most importantly , I/we learn from it.

As teachers, we must have the courage to push boundaries, try new things and the humility to admit/ accept when things haven’t gone right.  The great thing about working with kids is that they don’t mind telling you straight!

Imagine having teachers modelling this and explaining innovation/failure/success to students as they go over the course of a students school life.

Being courageous then becomes part of their very fabric of living and learning.

Imagine a culture of innovation was the norm, like working at google.

In the words of J.K Rowling;

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.”

I hope you enjoy watching as much as I did

 

 

Disrupt Your Thinking

Apple - think differentAs a committed and professional teacher you are no doubt on constant look out for ways in which things can be done better in your classroom, learning area, school or even school district.

Indeed, the rise of social media and online sharing allows us to access more good ideas and content than ever before.

I’ve said in the past that twitter and the subsequent links to blog posts, podcasts and research has been the key breakthrough I have experienced in professional learning in the ten years I have been teaching.

Regardless of teachers’ commitment to professional learning, most (if not all) teachers I meet are looking for ways to do things “better”.  Be it teaching and learning, planning, assessment, use of technology or the other myriad of areas that bring about enhanced learning experiences for our students.

But what if that way of thinking is actually hindering progress?

Confused?

Keep reading.

Being new to my role as Head of PE Sport, I know I have been guilty of looking at processes, planners, units, school sporting events, assessment tools and thinking to myself (and the team) how can we improve? How can I do them better?

Perhaps, I/ we have been asking the wrong kind of question.

It is not sufficient to do things better, we need to do better things.

When Steve Jobs was setting out to create the first Macintosh computer his design brief to the team at apple was, “I want a computer like a Bob Dylan song.”

I would bet that every computer design brief before that point had included specifications of technical jargon like processing speed, screen lumens, amount of RAM and so on.

What he did was break a pattern.  With this provocation he got people thinking NOT about improving what was already there but thinking about making something completely new, going in a different direction and disrupting the whole technology industry.

He sparked curiosity in the mind of designers and allowed them to begin thinking about Dylan’s songs…poetic, innovative and simple.

In the case of Steve Jobs and Apple, the rest, as they say, is history.

So what learning does this offer us teachers?  Can we disrupt thinking in our world to break the mould and to take learning in a whole new direction?

We need to stop thinking about how to do the things we do better, and the start thinking about how we do them completely differently.

And we begin with a provocation like Steve Jobs did about what we actually want to end up with.

The failings of Physical Education in the past have been well documented throughout history, especially in mainstream media.  We have all read, “PE lessons are worst school memories” and “Negative experiences of Physical Education and Sport.”

That said, I also strongly believe, to quote Dylan, that ‘the times they are-a-changin’ and there is a global cohort of 21st century teachers who are rapidly bringing learning back to PE.

I have to say that these types ‘report cards’ for PE do still serve as motivation for me to things differently.

I’d like to end the post with a story.

In 2005, the Association of Independent Creative Editors in America held a competition for sub-editors to re-make a movie trailer for the 1980 movie, The Shining. I‘m not sure if you will have seen it but its fair to say its no happy stroll in the park.  Officially dubbed a psychological Horror, it stars Jack Nicholson in one of his most eccentric roles.

The contest was to re-cut the trailer using the exact same footage. Editors were only allowed to change the music and the voice-over.

New Yorker, Robert Ryang won the contest by applying an expert level of disruptive thinking, depicting the film to be a light-hearted family comedy drama about father and son bonding.

I’m not suggesting that our past or current PE ‘story’ is a horror (well not across the board) but can we change what we have into a family-friendly classic?

Can we design lessons that look like a Bob Dylan song?

Can we create units that excite and engage students in the same way as Harry Potter or Star Wars?

Is it possible to create mini #PEgeeks in our classes who are as passionate about movement, physical activity and sport as they are about screen time?

I think so.

We may just have to take a leaf out of apple’s book and think different.

 

*Credit: Luke Williams: Disruptive Thinking for the blog post inspiration.