Heutagogy and Personal Learning

Thank you to those who have brought together the Heutagogy Community of Practice. 

You have helped greatly in drawing together many of the threads of my self-determined learning.

Working with New Zealanders who are aspiring to be school leaders I never cease to be struck by their energy and questioning capacities as they determine what they need to learn to lead more successfully in their school contexts.

As each school context is different  and each person brings different knowledge, culture and experience to leadership it is essential that these aspiring principals develop the dispositions and strategies for self-managed self-directed learning. Hence the value of appreciating what heutagogy means for experienced educators.

In the New Zealand context where schools have higher levels of self-management than any others in the OECD the need for school leaders to grow their own capacities must lie in the hands of each leader. Each leader needs to make their own Essential Questions – Jackie Gerston.

These questions stretch across all sorts of school systems – curriculum, personnel & employment, school financing and resourcing, student welfare, community relations etc. Leading student achievement in each school is similar but different from others so in turn the school leaders engage in a raft of heutagogical learning processes from day to day.

As i have referred to in other posts personal learning environments include powerful networks linking to those you know and meet face-to-face as well as those you know online or in text-to-brain connections.

Consequently New Zealand school leaders need to be expert at making their self-determined learning effective in school and face-to-face, in the community and on the internet – heutagogy rules I think!


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Leading and Learning – is change to be driven independently

Are we at a crossroads where we can be in charge of our own learning and direction?

We who use the internet and digital tools certainly think so. Don Taspscott certainly offers new belief about what is possible in his Solving the Worlds Problems Differently  I wonder though. The biggest shift may well be still sitting there waiting to happen.

In New Zealand and I suspect other OECD countries we have tended to believe that change in public education has had to be funded and launched from the middle. In other words for teachers professional learning the plans and intent evolve out from the middle – the middle being the Ministry of Education and or its associated providers of professional learning. The stepping up policy Ka Hikitia – aimed at raising achievement for Maori students is an example from the last 5 years.

The online world has certainly added substance to this developing strategy and action process in schools through injecting new ideas and pushing understanding by school leaders. However how ready are NZ school principals to share their developing and even tentative ideas? Are principals still heavy takers from the internet and not very heavy givers to the internet?

What if there was a constant flow of ideas and thinking? Much of it tentative and in its formative state? What if this flow is constantly being added to, adjusted and even re-stated? Would we start to get a powerful separate drive of leadership for achievement that did not require much if any support from defined MOE policy?

Would this be a low cost way to develop our learning capacities and appreciate what to do next?

Are tools like Twitter helping to give such approaches to leadership learning the chance to grow? The immediacy and sharp focus of many Tweets suggests this may be a possibility.

However are NZ principals developing shared learning approaches suited to self-managing collaborative approaches to leading achievement strategies?

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Learning and linking

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Learning Networks for New Zealand School Leaders

Leadership summaries provided by the Ministry of Education include;

  • Leadership is now about empowering, transforming, and working together – Leading from the Middle – MOE
  • “Effective principals have external networks that range from face-to-face through to online contacts. Networks help provide them with up-to-date and relevant knowledge about educational trends and issues. They give opportunities for making connections and developing learning partnerships that can be an effective way of sharing resources.” Kiwi Leadership for Principals MOE 2007
    •  “Ko te manu e kai ana i te miro, nöna te ngahere. Ko te manu e kai ana i te mätauranga, nöna te ao”

                Reciprocal learning and exemplary modelling of innovation that leads to the effective    creation, development and delivery of high quality authentic learning contexts and practice. Tū Rangatira – MOE 2010

Networking Opportunities knock every day!

Our learning world encompasses around 2 billion people actively connected to the internet and access to knowledge about past, present and future human activity is at its cheapest. Never before has it been possible to bring the thinking and understanding of so many together so quickly and easily.

The complexity and rapidity of social and technological change bring educational leadership special challenges – we face never before considered issues, such as disaffection with schooling, transient students, social expectations that schools will solve all ills and so on. In other words school leadership is firmly embedded in complex issues while governments in the OECD world place more and more focus on achievement and school performance accountability.

The traditional model of the principal “knowing it all” lies in a heap and needs to be replaced with a model that empowers the principal to be a networked learner and leader. The principal constantly works on using her/his personalised network(s) to link to and reflect upon new ideas, new solutions, reflective thought and discussion, coaching and feedback. In other words the network provides access to the leadership/thinking power of many others.

The networked principal applies a diverse range of personal skills at all levels of his/her networking.

Within School

  • Within school and face-to-face networking involves diverse relationship building and maintaining skills combined with a never ending thirst for new understanding, viewpoints and appreciation of students, teachers and community needs. Networking skills include publishing (sharing) one’s understandings, position on issues, reflections about issues and changes. Coaching and shared learning are other important networking skills.
  • Within school these leadership skills are important contributors to the trust, shared goals and a willing certainty that the school’s classrooms are the homes of strong internal networks and are growing to be strongly networked to world learning. In this home-base network the learning exchanges are a mix of kanohi ki te kanohi, paper exchanges, on the school server sharing and analysis. Some are lengthy and planned. Some are short and sharp and unplanned. These by chance interactions are a huge benefit for the school learning network as frequently they produce new possibilities and lift the network into new realms of operating at a higher plane because the shared learning is right at the “chalk-face” so the leader(s) see, understand, approve and support all at a rapid pace.
  • One can argue that a school leader ensures that these in school networking interactions are seen as the leader modelling what every member of the school community needs to be doing – engaging in collaborative learning, questioning and listening in depth, respecting the views of others and trusting others to act fairly and openly about their learning exchanges.
  • One can argue that the school leader who is successfully engaging in such in school networking develops the skills and disposition to successfully expand and use networks in wider groups and even nationally and internationally.

Within New Zealand

  • Within Aotearoa, the district and local region the same networking capacities and skills are applied with the belief that educational progress will only be fully embedded when there is shared responsibility and action about achievement across geographical areas. Our networks of school leaders are so small that we have an extraordinary opportunity to grow our leadership capacities in ways that the larger nations of the world can only dream about.
  • We can in Aotearoa combine elements of kanohi ki te kanohi with the online interactions in a surprising number of ways – thus the opportunity to build online trust and security is likely to be more quickly achieved than in big societies. This in turn should mean that we are able to interact more easily with others engaged in similar leadership settings and can interact across leadership levels and up and down through different levels of leadership responsibility.
  • Diffusion of ideas and new possibilities should be easier to spread if leaders can adopt a sharing, collaborative, trustworthy and trusting approach to their interactions. (Note this open approach is handicapped in many leaders minds by the need to protect “their schools intellectual property” in case others will “take more students” in the next round of enrolments.

Across the Internet

  • Across the world the same networking capacities and skills can be used to share learning with others and gain fresh insights.     


Making the Networked Principal

Use the opportunities;

  • Every day brings opportunity to network at all levels – in school, district, Aotearoa and the world.
  • Every day brings opportunity to collapse under the weight infowhelm.
  • Every day great ideas keep re-surfacing and new ones emerge!
  • Every day school leaders feel driven by the expectations of their communities to deal with the here and now. As the experts they as leaders should be seen to be super busy and super resourceful.
  • Every day issues and complexities that have been unsolved or unresolved arise again.
  • Every day there are astounding learning achievements in Kiwi schools
  • Regularly stopping to think is all too rarely placed on the agendas of busy school principals. 

 Can we establish a New Zealand wide network of school leaders where increasingly we apply a collective approach to solving the complex problems of education while strongly supporting the astounding learning that already goes on?

Perhaps networking approaches that treasure and value all learners include;

  • Coaching and truly sharing learning
  • Listening to what is happening both inside the minds of learners and teachers as well as what appears on the surface.
  • Networking built on strong face-to-face learning interactions that treasure and grow relationships then being mirrored in online and blended learning settings.
  • Leadership learners who have a strong sense of confident self management about their learning – they seek and question readily expecting to find what they need rather than wait to be told.
  • School Professional Learning is no longer dependent on external forces providing the means to activate teacher and principal learning – the power is in our own hands to make professional learning fit our own contexts as and when we need it. (The means to conquer distance being of huge significance for rural town and district schools in terms of time and money saved.)

Recognise the capacity of IT and internet tools to advance networking

 Notice so far that I have not mentioned specific technologies and their tools. This is because the capacity to network effectively is the most important thing not knowing about the most tools. However the explosion of technologies to support networked learning has meant that we need to be carrying out networking learning processes such tools.

  • Individual reflections and observations – publish in an online blog/journal and invite feedback from others. E.g. WordPress, …
  • Storing evidence of your leadership actions and events – online and or on servers that never fail! E.g. Dropbox, Slideshare, My Portfolio …
  • Open to learning gathering of sources/ideas/questions – RSS feeds, Aggregators such as www.educationalleaders.govt.nz,  Twitter, Diigo, …
  • Engage in regular dialogue – online and face-to-face about leadership issues and questions – within your school and community (e.g. Principals blog) with other leaders (VLN & My Portfolio) with others in other countries (MOOCs)
  • Engage in regular dialogue – online and face-to-face that lifts your thinking into double and triple loop thinking where the What if… thinking is helping to produce ideas and solutions beyond what has been considered in the past.
  • Using your Walking Wikipedias – establish a means to identify powerful contacts and interact with as needed – using the full range of networking tools. Use IT tools to help remember who and their significance to your leadership context. E.g. follow them on Twitter, Facebook, their blog, ring them up, speak to them at hui…


Establish a Kiwi Linkage of Leaders that is self-managed and used by self-managers


Adopting internet based tools a school leader in New Zealand can be an effective networker and add to the world’s appreciation of leading school advances. Applying sound networking principles of giving and in turn using and receiving each leader can benefit themselves and their schools as well as giving to others in their schools.

A simple way to ensure sources and items of value to New Zealand school leaders is to adopt the nz addition to tags being made online for things that are of particular interest for Kiwi leaders. E.g. In Twitter using the following would sharpen our use of the links provided;

NAPPnz  – National Aspiring Principals Programme (New Zealand)

PLEnz – personal learning environment (New Zealand) 

Leadershipnz – …

Distributed Leadershipnz – …

Enough Said

This summary is an off the cuff set of reflections about self-managed learning. It has been influenced by a diverse range of events, actions and walking Wikipedia over the past 5 years as I have dipped my toes into the “flow of the internet” and observed the rapid expansion of social media tools.

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Literacies and Personal Learning Environments

My Personal Learning Environment (PLE) applied to Online Learning
What do I bring to an Online Learning setting?
1. I bring in My Accumulated Knowledge and My Energy Literacies – these include;
a. my abilities to allocate time for reflection and recognise my own understandings and where they are at.
b. Recognising how and when I learn best (get a flow going).
c. Recognising how I view the concept of “being able to expand my knowledge rapidly myself”.
d. Recognising how I can use my experiences to support other participants
e. Applying energy to growing my inquiring capacities

2. I bring My Inquiring Disposition Literacies – these are my abilities and interest in moving my learning and understandings along and their capacity to drive the rest of my PLE.
a. What are my Inquiring Literacies? How disposed am I to inquiry?
b. How well do I pose questions to encourage new lines of thought?
c. How well do I listen unreservedly to others?
d. How does coaching fit with my inquiring disposition?

3. I bring My Walking Wikipedias (all those people I know, know of and connect to) Literacies – these are my relationship literacies – building trust, listening and interacting capacities.
a. Have I got an easy access means to make online connections to those I work with? (Decide which of the Social Media tools you want to use – e.g. Skype but you will no doubt use others.)
b. Have I got easy online connection to the thinking of experts and practitioners in the field of education I am coaching in? (The term aggregator is applied to people or groups who bring together collections of sources and resources. An individual who does this is Stephen Downes, a Canadian Educator, who provides a daily newsletter full of links to new ideas and thoughts about education. Our http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz provides a wide range of sources and resources that have particular importance for NZ Education. You can set up your own aggregator using Google. Become a member of iGoogle. Once this is set up click on My Account or More, in the Menu bar, and add the Reader to your home page your Google Reader.
c. Do I actively reflect upon the meaning and intent of other people’s messages? Do I regard this as online listening? Remember the coaching listening patterns – I think it is a great idea to take your hand of the mouse while you consider an online screen – this slows down your desire to rush to the next link and enables a pause for reflection.
d. Do my online actions encourage others to explore their thinking, accept that tentative ideas are just fine, and model an inquiring disposition?
e. Does my online participation occur regularly enough to show I am a keen member of the community?

4. I bring My Sourcing Literacies – my finding, sorting, analyzing, storing and retrieving literacies. This is the most easily recognized set of online literacies as we all still see the internet to a greater or lesser degree as a giant encyclopaedia from which we take knowledge.
a. Finding – Google search has many different aspects – such as Google Scholar and does provide guidance about how to find “stuff”. You will only ever find a fraction of what is potentially available – do not be concerned about what you have missed – the best thinking keeps re-surfacing especially if you have an aggregation approach that brings them back to your attention.
b. Sorting and Analysing – slowing down to spend time weighing up what is useful will in the end save time – e.g. 2 useful sources of new ideas are much more useful than 10 possibilities.
c. Storing – very important for formative ideas, – if your retrieval systems are sound then getting back to sources, people and discussion should be easier. Openly discourage yourself from printing off resources but save resources you value – see below in My Computer. Note: Blogs are a simple way to keep track of your own thoughts, understandings and intentions – use a Blog.
d. Retrieval – Some of the social media developments have revolutionized our ability to track down new sources and resources. Delicious is probably the most common shared collection of online sources. Diigo is another. Each of these has a range of sophisticated systems you can use to stop your lists becoming unmanageable – using tags is of great value. Become a member of Delicious and see what happens when you enter a search for NAPP2011.
e. Resource Banks – Be fully aware of the nature of leadership resources on the various MOE sponsored sites such as http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz. Build your own resource banks and be able to retrieve them quickly.

5. I bring My Social Media Literacies – these include all my means of interactions with My Walking Wikipedias – usually a chosen interaction type fits the context of my communication.
a. Your Online may berelatively simple using a range of social media tools. Blogging, online discussion.
b. In Aotearoa we have developed Mahara as a means for educators to grow their capacity to use a range of social media to share and build understanding. Many Aspiring Principals will belong already and we have arranged for all of us to access to the MOE supported My Portfolio as this is a suitable place for Aspiring Principals’ portfolios to transition into life after NAPP 2012. It will provide the means to run a Learning Partners Group in a secure setting.
c. Facebook, Wikis and other free online spaces can provide useful additions to our online learning spaces.
d. Social media interactions provide us with two main types of interaction. Actively reflecting upon the meaning and intent of other people’s messages/articles/video clips etc involves a form of interaction with the publisher as it pushes us into more thought and action. The second interaction is publishing. Here we share our thoughts, understandings and knowledge as a means to help add to the community’s knowledge base and very importantly we sharpen then adjust our own understanding by encouraging the interaction of the minds of others with our own. E.g. Blogs – How to make better teachers , Six Steps to Making Sharing Part of How You Work

6. I bring My Computer and My Internet Literacies – Applying the technology as I attempt to satisfy My Inquiring Disposition usually follows a personalized path. As computers now have huge storage capacity a big issue for educators is to use a file and folder system that enables our minds to easily link into the pattern we need to retrieve files, references and links to our networks. These are useful suggestions;
a. Have a base folder for a new year – e.g. 2012 and within it apply the same folder headings used last year (e.g. Staff Professional Learning 2012), inside that in turn have sub-folders for different parts of professional learning. If necessary you can go back and retrieve files from previous years and save and adjust them as needed to fit 2012 operations.
b. Backup – ensure regular backups are made and copies stored on more than one site – using a back up in Google docs, making copies of past years. and then having 2-3 copies of the current years files on a portable storage device. Do not rely on just one copy! Dropbox provides storage in the clouds for duplicate copies of your personal files – these can then be accessed from anywhere you connect to the internet.
c. Periodically tidy up your computer – e.g. the Desk top, temporary files…
d. Have a system to link you to websites of interest – again use headings (or tags) that have linkage to your my Computer systems – common titles. There is a real advantage in being able to share tags with others – 10 minutes setting this up may save a staff many hours of searching. Frequently used websites need to be 1-2 clicks away.
e. My Internet Literacies – check you can open several tabs at once as you use your Internet Explorer or Firefox web browser. This is often useful when you considering 2-3 sources at the same time and borrow bits from each to place in a presentation.
f. Site Navigation – establish a quick and secure password/login system, spend a little time to sort the structure of the site/community you are in. This is like remembering the directions on a map – familiarity with the paths soon means you do not need the map.
g. Establish very clearly with yourself that learning time is really important every week. Within that time confirm set times for online networking – this may start as only 30 minutes linking to and reading online source materials. Establish online interaction as a requirement with yourself and make sure others know what you are doing and the benefit it brings. This value of publishing helping learning cannot be over emphasized.
h. Slow down your physical actions with the mouse/cursor – you are seeking understanding so give your brain a chance to reflect. In fact take your hands off the mouse.
i. Learn one new thing related to internet/computer use each month. E.g. hyperlinks

This blog entry aims to support online learners as they merge their face-to-face (“kanohi ki te kanohi”) learning worlds with internet based ones.

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My tentative steps into PLENK10 opened up the start of my blogging about connectivity.

This year I have been working with over 200 Kiwis making steps to greater connectivity between a new generation of school leaders who are working towards being school principals.

For many this has been the first step along a blogging and online forum path – the need to recognise you cannot deal with all knowledge and information you come across is one important part of their learning – then knowing what is important will re-surface!

I look forward to more of the open learning world.


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Connecting, Motivating and Learning

During the last two weeks I have been reading Daniel Pink’s book Drive – yes a paper back book. His analysis of motivation I find easily acceptable and very applicable to our concepts of connectedness. See The Surprising Truth about what motivates us
In particular his concept of motivation being driven by the sheer enjoyment of learning makes so much sense. His link to concepts like learning flow seem so realistic as well.

During our Christmas-New Year holidays it was entrancing to watch our two 4 year old grandsons apply this approach to learning. We were in a house with wireless internet and there were two i-pads so for about a week they had observed adults using both i-pads and laptops to connect to things and places and on occasions they scanned pictures of family members etc or were empowered to watch a movie or video clip.
The learning switch was thrown though when the door was kicked open to the sea of Numeracy and literacy Apps available on i-pads. The initial access and use involved considerable parent or grandparent supervision to ensure they “did the right things”. However this rapidly moved to the 4 year olds adopting learning autonomy as they identified and used “games” as they saw it – all the Apps were means to learn numeracy or literacy skills.

The sight of two 4 year olds concentrating and loving learning every minute for lengthy periods of time was surely an example of Daniel Pink flow. Each of the young learners adopted a process of rewarding themselves for being successful by going to the success collection of badges and stickies. This rewarding process was seen as part of the “game” and not treated as a reason for learning – it was an interesting interlude between games and no thought seemed to be given to getting as many badges as possible.

Our two 4 year olds will never meet the creator of the Apps they used but they enjoyed their learning – I suspect because they had autonomy over the learning process – they chose which “game”, they learned through the games in their own way without adult presence in the room interfering or moving them on to something else.

This autonomy for the learner is surely the greatest gift the connected internet world offers. If 4 year olds with minimal adult assistance can feel autonomous and well motivated surely the possibilities for education of all people at all ages is not only a given but a reality where the internet is accessible.

By autonomy I mean the learner chooses how and when to attack the learning – even if there are boundaries and limits. In New Zealand our self-managing school principals have this sort of autonomy – even though a state school’s funding comes from the government and there are regulations and laws about how schools operate the overall position of autonomy of action is theirs.

In learning as school leaders principals are now able to combine their leadership autonomy with the power of internet and give themselves and their school the benefit of connectedness – remember the 4 year olds and motivation!

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