Publish for Possibilities

Digital citizenship is loudly proclaimed across compulsory education in New Zealand but do we know what we want it to be? Do we work to ensure it opens up possibilities for our school students and leaders or do we tread with caution and doubt its value?

George Couros, a visionary school leader in Alberta, Canada, has in his The Principal of Change Blog outlined some very useful insights to youth in his country and their views and actions on the internet in Positive, Negative or Neutral? Crucial conversations on Digital Citizenship?

He discovered that students were careful in their use of the internet and showed him what their digital footprint was like. However they did not display anything about their interesting capabilities and capacity to learn. Perhaps because it was not cool to do so.

If as George suggests resumes will be replaced by your online presence then there is a message for not only students at school but also for school leaders and educators at all levels.

His message for those guiding students of school age could well be for learners of all ages;

  1. “Is your footprint positive, negative, or neutral?  What would others say that don’t know you?
  2. How do you want to be perceived offline? How about online? Is there a difference in your actions in those spaces?
  3. It is important to show who you are as a person, but to also understand that this is a an open room and to be thoughtful of others.  Have fun but not at the expense of someone else.”

I know for years I ignored the thought of having an online presence that included my thinking and learning – despite the fact I have worked online in school leadership linkage for well over a decade!

My first tentative steps in the use of WordPress were made six years ago, with Twitter and LinkedIn being minor excursions on my behalf at times over the last four years.

It is only now that I belatedly recognise that I have been a “lurker” for most of my internet time and have not added enough value to others leadership learning by including my own thoughts and spending time curating useful connections/resources/etc that I have come across.

I suppose I am now facing the challenge that communities of learning do not yield full value to their members unless there is a healthy balance between “publishing” and “lurking.”

Publishing tentative understandings can be very valuable if others connect their thinking to them and pass on their understandings – rolling through a series of interactions will no doubt help us all to arrive at new knowledge and thinking that none of us alone could manage.

Now what about teachers as leaders. As innovative learning environments appear in the reality and minds of teachers and students can we see new layers of leadership emerge as expertise is shared more readily and sharpened as teachers grow their capacity not because they know more but because they are prepared to publish more.

Principals and other school leaders could develop “innovative leadership environments” where they publish their thoughts for others to reflect upon and add to. This would of course be built into a trusting environment such as Jan Robertson outlines in her recently published book.

Reference: Roberson, J. (2016) .Coaching Leadership: building educational leadership capacity through partnership. Wellington: NZCER (E-version available at $15 from

This blog has been placed in my WordPress blog as recognition that its tentative suggestions need a bigger audience than can be found in the “walled garden” of the New Zealand National Aspiring Principals Programme (NAPP)

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Curation: What is it and why is it important?

First published in NAPP My Portfolio 31 January 2016 – added to WordPress July 3, 2016

Curation sounds awkward. How does it add value to learning for us as leaders?

Steven Anderson sheds light on curation – by making it simple.

In NAPP we are encouraging network development and supportive interaction so learning is easier. Steven Anderson makes this point;

“The Internet has allowed us to retrieve as much information on any topic from pretty much any source we want. Wading through the junk can be tough. We have to rely on the collective knowledge of our friends and colleagues to help us sort the good from the bad. (Because remember, alone we are smart but together we are brilliant.)”

However I agree with Steven Anderson – retrieval and collective knowledge are only half the process.

Curation involves using “web based tools to locate, filter for value and then save for later”.

Note in Anderson’s article the emphasis he places on Evernote, Pocket and Diigo – as this article was written in 2014 things change and you may well have other online apps that provide way stations for new information and filtered resources of value.

I would add the point that we never need to be concerned about missing out on valuable knowledge – valuable knowledge will come back to the surface again provided you maintain your “dipping into the internet” at regular intervals. Your network will bring back ideas and information in all sorts of ways provided you interact with it reasonably often.

Using Twitter is a great example – I am not great at posting on Twitter but I find spending short periods of time every day or so will bring to the surface a diverse range of educational resources and ideas from the diverse range of educators on my “following” list – perhaps in 2016 I’ll get better at curating some resources and sharing them on Twitter.

One of the delights of the internet is the way it keeps on adding possibilities to our learning – curating may well be more valuable than we think initially.

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Messy Situations Make Us Uneasy, But Can Improve Our Thinking

First published in NAPP My Portfolio 21 February 2016 – published in WordPress 29 June 2016

I follow Mindshift on Twitter  and enjoy the way ideas and actions are added to my learning framework as a result.

In this example Tim Harford uses a TED talk to elaborate on Messy Disruptions and how active use of them can add power to our thinking and lead to results beyond what we might expect.

Our instincts as teachers and leaders in education always craves the normal and comfortable – as a Principal I would often think of a “normal week” – by this I thought of a normal timetable with no interruptions from special events (such as sports), disruptions from upheaval (teachers illness, students behaviour, angry parents etc). It took me years to recognise that the interruptions were the normal and that our school as a “living breathing being” was simply being human.

Harford’s point about dealing with complexity by deliberately adding disruption is powerful. His example where four friends are less likely to solve complex issues/problems than three friends with an awkward stranger (or in our case a grumpy parent/teacher) really makes you stop and think about how we need to shift our thinking and not be trapped by comfort and security.

I suppose the Mindshift message is that unease and disruption push us into higher levels of thinking – have you ever been leading a meeting and as a result of “disruption” from someone else’s thinking had an “aha moment” been able to capture it and then speak about a better plan/intent than the one you began with.

I wonder what Twitter will throw up as a disruption this week?

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Networks and Leadership with Harold Jarche

First published in NAPP My Portfolio May 16 2016 – published in WordPress 29 June 2016

I enjoy Harold Jarche – he regularly provides insights into the way networks are developing and changing. His reflections seem to fit well with coaching and thinking in depth about leadership and change.

For quick reads and enjoyment in thinking further make use of his thinking: for example his 13 May reflection – go to PKM to Learn is to Do 

PKM refers to Personal Knowledge Mastery – “PKM is a set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world, work more effectively, and contribute to society.” I like the point about Masters not needing management!

Seek Sense Share.JPG

In his reflections he refers to Perpetual Beta as being the way the culture of an organisation is.

“An intelligent culture has a sense of ‘perpetual beta’, encouraging curiosity and
not just a willingness to experiment but active experimentation at all levels.
Without the keystone of intelligent communication it would be difficult to adapt
to perpetual beta and a spirit of continuous experimentation. Culture is built
upon daily actions. Trust is an emergent property of an intelligent organization,
stemming from a healthy workplace culture.”

This quote is taken from his Adapting to Perpetual Beta short book – he has summarised his blogs from the last 10+ years into three volumes – go to Books in Beta to see if you want to buy them.

Interestingly I purchased the books – they are sent electronically – and forgot to add my e-mail into the instructions – Harold replied with a personal comment within 15 minutes and sent the books.

Enjoy the growth of ideas and PKM.

Harold’s point about culture always being on the move in an organisation is a great reminder. All to often in schools we refer to school culture as though it is not evolving and changing. The evolution occurring so gradually sometimes that we do not notice and at other times the changes can be disruptive.

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New Learning: Stephen Downes Reflections

First published in NAPP My Portfolio 9 March 2016 – published in WordPress 29 June 2016

New Learning, New society by Stephen Downes (Presentation 354, Made at Ryerson University, Toronto in Feb 2015)

During the past 8 years I have enjoyed listening to, seeing on video and reading Stephen Downes reflections about the internet and learning.

His suggestions about learning moving more and more along a path that will allow us to own our own learning and how we go about it strikes a chord of appreciation with me. In particular his point that we need to work and learn based on our own values (moral purpose) and ensure that our learning allows us to grow and appreciate our cultural heritage in autonomous ways.

His references to connectivism and the fact that the power of learning is generated by the network connections and the processes involved in interaction – it is not the giant sources of knowledge at the nodes in a network that drive new learning it is the interaction by people across the network.

His concern that all too often our strategies and plans for our schools are based on the models of the past even when we are applying new technologies – in other words the factory model controlling and directing what is learned and gathering data related to “achievement” is very powerful across all education systems.

All too rarely do we have control of our own learning destiny.

Listen to Downes for 15 minutes – he is interesting. Note you can subscribe to his regular flow of online postings – see the links on the page linked to above.

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Learning for Me Happens when…

First published 15 February 2016 – published in WordPress 29 June 2016

Learning for me happens when…

Although learning is heightened at hui like a PLG I find that learning comes out of the woodwork when I least expect it.

In our connected world we have the “choice” about connecting with others at many levels. I find my learning has shifted from being based on the written on paper to a mix of online text, video and image and audio – however the learning does not emerge as being very successful until I am asking and applying questions.

The NAPP learning processes fit around a mix of face-to-face across the spectrum to fully online – for me all of the spectrum is valuable. However writing and reflecting adds value in ways that I find increasingly powerful – hence the journal entries.

Somehow the process of writing forces me to focus on what I really think and understand – giving clarity at the time and providing valuable food for reflection when I return to read weeks, months or even years later. The focussing of thought and meaning is a bit like being in conversation and listening to someone else then having improved insight.

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Pedagogies for Deeper Learning

First published in NAPP My Portfolio 4 February 2016 – published in WordPress 29 June 2016

Pedagogies for deeper learning – this expression flows easily off our tongues and sounds right as a bastion of educational change. However if you are like me you have an uneasy feeling about relating this to the here and now of educational processes in school or in our clusters?

New Pedagogies for Deep Learning is a Fullan video clip that offers the chance to develop clarity and some assurance about the implications and processes.

Fullan spends time explaining changing relationships in the classroom – I like his point that the teacher is an activator (not a facilitator) engaged in deep learning processes – that is actively engaged in the learning process and not surrendering to the power of technology and leaving the students to their own devices. He sees technology being exploited in that activation but not leading the shape of how pedagogy works.

Engaging in Deep Learning is greatly assisted with the clarity of the Deep Learning Competencies as these seem applicable across all education anywhere – Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, Character and Citizenship.

Extending each of these Competencies provides clarity for the teacher to actively lead the learning processes and share the patterns of how it works. e.g. Citizenship includes “global perspective, understanding of diverse values and worldviews, genuine interest in human and environmental sustainability, and solving ambiguous, complex and authentic problems.

I doubt that one can engage with students on Citizenship elements without “activating” students curiousity and capacity to question and question – very different from the teacher creating the questions and providing answers.

Complex and ambiguous problems abound in our societies – how often do we even discuss them? Are they part of the NAPP curriculum?

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