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one step beyond

November 24, 2014

While I recall an evening spent with Madness playing live mid-1980s at the Perth Concert Hall and nothing the bouncers attempted could stop skinheads from tearing up chairs in the front rows, this is more of a statement of gratitude than a review.

The song’s exuberance captures a sense of the anticipation I felt last Tuesday as I caught a train to Shenton Park instead of undertaking my usual drive.

Our purpose as a group of English teachers flocking to Shenton College – a teacher development school – was to converse. Ideas shared were based on new WACE English courses, particularly the exam brief which flags changes ahead.


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What follows is taken from my notes on the day’s conversations.

Examinable content from 2016 asks our students to

  • Compare texts from similar/ different genres
  • Compare & contrast distinctive features
  • Analyse & critically appraise conventions
  • Create a range of texts
  • Reflect on texts
  • That is, write about relationships.

There will be shifts in what we will have to do in our classes.

Thus: Intense analysis of short pieces of text.

We look at language features rather than whole texts/ ideas & thinking. Year 7 writing will be our starting point; renewed focus will attend to writing well.


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Text sharing marked the passage of workshop sessions:

Blackfish. Perks of Being a Wallflower. Zusak’s The Messenger. Persepolis. Z For Zachariah. Prius, Diesel and Red Bull ads. Tomb Raider. Resident Evil. Into the Wild. Megadeth song lyrics. Time Magazine covers. Even a Supertramp album cover.

Representation continues to rule along with identity, culture and ideology.


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Reflection spiralled through our discussions on return to school even as exam marking continued. Prompts, markers and signposts all serve to shape the shift we experience as future-becoming.
What I witness is how we come to be one step beyond.

Continuing renewal

November 15, 2014

Continuing renewal

Selected reference

Hargreaves, A. (2005). Educational change takes ages: Life, career and generational factors in teachers’ emotional reactions to educational change. Teaching and teacher education, 21(8), pp. 967-983.

Hat-tipping the enablers

November 15, 2014


I was privileged to be a student in Elizabeth Jolley‘s Creative Writing classes as an 18 year old undergraduate enrolled at what was then known as WAIT. The course notes suggested we would be studying radio drama, but I learned more about people, relationships and learning than course descriptors could encompass. I see now that Elizabeth was one of my enablers.

The same distinction applies to Tim Winton whose early Vogel award-winning fame led to a stint for one semester only as creative writing tutor (1983 – same institute. Lucky me, as well as other nascent writers – Doreen, Kevin, F. Scott…).

Of course, I cringe at the rubbish I used to collect in journals and later [insert much editing] forwarded to my tutors for marking as a student. They were helpful, courteous and sensitive in their feedback and, for that, I am grateful. Hopefully, it is the same respect and mindful attentiveness I extend to students whose work I am now in a position to read/ view and review.


So, to Genius Hour presentations this week for which I doff my hat to Joy Kirr.

This visible thinking tool in its original form was a happy discovery on Twitter (thanks to @TeacherTuttle). Along with our students (for their feedback throughout this process), and colleague MR who edited documentation, more hat-tipping to the enablers:

Continued exploration while planning for this process yielded

Poster version of 5 Simple Questions looks like this:

5 simple questions

Here’s our task rubric and cover page:

What did our students share? In summary:

Growing up in Australia. A film about the passage from age 12 to adulthood. Film trailers. How to apply make up. The difference between murder and self defense. Growing up from joey to kangaroo. Australian Rules football (two of these). Rap songs. Horror tales. Stories about students, school and teachers. Sport and why it is good for your brain. Why online gaming makes you smarter. Presentations on dancing, motorbike racing, onesies, goldfish, Tasmanian tigers, rugby players, animation characters and goats.

Strengths: Diversity of topics. Level of interestingness. Engagement lifted. Energy amplified.

Weaknesses: Some opted out of presenting to peers. Messy/ rubbery expectations and subsequent deadline stretch. Emotional tensions grew.


Questions remaining:

  • Were my expectations too high/ unreasonable?
  • What to do as follow up with those who refuse to speak?
  • Will we go there again?

Hmmm. Yes, but different.

Currently we are exploring curiosity as a frame of reference. Might look something like this thanks to Mike, Sammi and Scot. More enablers and yet another, closing, heartfelt hat tip.



November 8, 2014
tags: ,


Selected reference

Beattie, M. (1995). New prospects for teacher education: narrative ways of knowing teaching and teacher learning. Education research, 37(1), pp. 53-70. Retrieved November 8, 2014

think things out

November 2, 2014
tags: ,

think things out

Selected reference

Abbott-Chapman, J. & Robertson, M. (2001). Youth, leisure and home: Space, place and identity. Society and Leisure, 24(2), pp. 485-506. Retrieved November 1, 2014


Future focus, culture & literacy

November 1, 2014

Consider the landscape: this is a tale of three professional learning activities.


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On Tuesday, colleague WC and I slalomed down Great Northern Highway to see who’d be first to arrive at Belmont City College. We both referred to Google maps, and reviewed routes (Great Eastern Highway bypass? Through Guildford?), but she overshot the Fisher Street turn-off while I arrived as parents pulled away from the kerb. School was out.

I was grateful that WC charged my iPad from her car’s cigarette lighter.

I was even more grateful that our conversation – more like private audience – with David Price navigated through

  • open learning
  • education policies
  • pursuit of student engagement
  • impact of disengagement
  • correlation between innovation & engagement
  • outsourcingautomation 
  • how to prepare for uncertainty?
  • High Tech High
  • W.E. Deming
  • Sugata Mitra
  • flat companies eg Valve
  • theories of social learning

David shared 4 indicators for effective learning from learning frontiers:

  1. Placed within their (learner’s) world
  2. Purposeful
  3. Pervasive
  4. Passion-led.


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Frightening statistic: Only 11% of employees around the world are engaged in their jobs.

New (future focused) purpose of learning: Foster a learning culture. How? Fail fast and integrate – what works will stick. Use the right levers for your context.

Suggested reading: Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence + this paper;

Suggested viewing: This is Brighton made by Caleb Yule aged 13;

Useful suggestion: Design a focus program for Years 7-10 MESS subjects. Modify the curriculum and cater for those with learning difficulties.


Our Think Tank on Thursday focused on Year 6-7 transition. Fewer notes here as I was absorbed in learning as a social process. Google docs was an effective tool for collaboration.

Here’s a selective/filtered/framed Theatresports session:


The literacy Think Tankers were so engrossed that they lost track of time and nearly missed our plenary.


  • We had fun.
  • Loved sharing feedback.
  • This is an evolving work in progress.


Building a Culture of Literacy Achievement in Secondary with Feni Bembridge yesterday at Statewide Support Services (previously Padbury SHS, now decommissioned).


  • Travel as a metaphor for learning where “students can be seen as moving countries each day” between classes. How do we achieve continuity? [Common terminology/ shared tools & frameworks/ build common strategies across the school]
  • Look at the data: Current year 8 & 9 students. Which students or cohorts are targeted for intervention? Establish whole school processes to target their OLNA achievement
  • Survey your community – include everyone to generate buy-in. Encourage dialogue around literacy requirements [spelling, sentence structure, grammar, paragraphing, critical thinking…]
  • Focus on making meaning; we are judged on how well we as learners make meaning.

Agave Inv.

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Feni’s essential preconditions:

Must be easy to implement.

Explicit focus on literacy and learning.

Time efficient.

Built-in not bolted on.

We undertook modeling with 3 useful steps applied to a glossy brochure:

  1. Preview the text
  2. Deconstruction
  3. Reconstruction.

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Analysis of codes, conventions and meaning-making ensued.

Now to the interesting feature: School stories. Like ours – in #2 above – but in the words of participants, and contextualised to show how strategies underpinned culture. Wonderful format, especially as so many announced reflective statements by intoning

Warts and all.

Willingness to fail, review and refine rendered the schools’ processes compelling. No one was finished or content with outcomes which served to reveal fresh challenges. Hiccups were laid bare.

What impressed: There was immense generosity in the act of sharing insights so that others could benefit and learn.

mediated by trust

October 26, 2014
tags: ,

mediated by trust

Selected reference

Webb, E.J. (1996). Trust and crisis. In Kramer, R.M. & Tyler, T.R. (Eds.). Trust in organisations: Frontiers of theory and research (pp. 288-301). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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