Lessons from uLearn16: Keynote 3

Michael Fullan: Early lessons from implementing New Pedagogies for Deep Learning


Michael Fullan continued the theme, common among the keynote speakers, of student-centred education. And in particular, the idea of transforming pedagogies to tap into the incredible reservoir of children’s creativity.

Michael talked about how humans are innately wired to: connect, create and help humanity. This was tied in with the idea of millennials gravitating towards good. And they do this not because they’re altruistic, but because that is what it is to be human. It was nice to hear of this positive aspect of millennials, as they generally get a bit of bashing (particularly, it must be said, from baby boomers). And made me think back to John Couch’s keynote and the fact that we don’t use student-power to solve community problems.

Perhaps most excitingly, NPDL helps those most disaffected with current education systems. It does this because it: connects with the real world by providing relevance, is congruent with native values, has a culture of high expectation, builds relationships on trust, increases efficacy and optimism, and provides support for students who don’t have much. Like the other keynote messages, this doesn’t seem like rocket science to me. Coming from the primary sector, I feel like there is a lot of this going on already in their classrooms, and it saddens and frustrates me that there seems to be little or no educational innovation happening in my environment. We seem to be bound by NCEA, becoming slaves to it, rather than making it work for our students.


Because we don’t need better leaders. Leaders are not the solution, better citizens are.

One of the things that made this keynote more interesting is that Minister Parata was sitting in the front row as it was delivered. And she was watching on Twitter as those listening reacted to messages that seemed incongruent with current education policy. Points such as: bad strategies for whole system change are accountability and standards (and evidence proves this!), and focus on long-term success rather than units of work (which is not was NCEA encourages).

Again I left a keynote address thinking that we need some brave leadership in more secondary schools so that we can do our best by all our students. The “tail” of NZ education tells us that the current system is not working for 20% of our kids, and in particular our Māori and Pasifika students. Something needs to change so that these young people can reach their full potential.

The session did end on a hopeful note. Michael encouraged leadership from the middle. That is, to exploit policy from the top but add to it to make it work for you. This, in turn, leads the top to learn from the middle. Let’s get exploiting!

So what, now what?

What does this keynote mean to me and my practice? What impact does this have on the school library?

  • I’m not sure yet…need to keep thinking

Some links and follow ups:

Lessons from uLearn16: Keynote 2

John Couch: New dimensions in learning


John’s keynote was built upon Simon Sinek’s golden circle concept: the WHY of things. This resonated quite strongly with me, not least because I am always questioning my own practice in an effort to get rid of unnecessary tasks. But also because both education and technology can be quickly consumed by the latest fad, without much thinking about whether it will improve teaching and learning or not.

John talked about having a clear vision as this is what drives mission. However, he was quick to point out that visions should be aspirational, while missions are measurable. Throwing creativity at a problem, rather than money, appealed to the number 8 wire mentality. But I think this also has bigger implications in an educational context. Why are we not harnessing student creativity to solve community or school problems?



Joi Ito’s ‘learning over education’ was referenced. If we think about this in terms of our students we have to cede some of our power and control. If students are engaged they will learn, so it is up to us to put them at the centre of things – otherwise why do we exist? If schools aren’t about the students what are they about? Students’ curiosity-fueled exploration creates knowledge – where do we see this? Especially in a traditional secondary context?

John made the point that education will not change from the top down (despite the Minister’s best attempts) and as technology becomes more freely available, it will become a disrupter and help change come from the bottom. While we may see technology as a tool (and I am guilty of saying this all the time), to our students it is an environment. Are we recognising this and meeting them where they are at?

Lastly, John talked about educators providing access to content. If this is all they are doing they will become obsolete, it is essential that educators are providing context for the content. This will need to see teachers change their role to become co-learners, and this is okay – in the age of the internet, no student expects an adult to be the font of all knowledge. Instead we need to see a symbiotic relationship in learning between teacher, student and community.

So what, now what?

What does this keynote mean to me and my practice? What impact does this have on the school library?

  • in terms of my role on our ICT steering committee, I need to be asking WHY
  • the school library policy manual still needs to be updated – what is our vision? what do we aspire to?

Some links and follow ups:

Lessons from uLearn16: Keynote 1

This was my first uLearn and I suspect I’ll be processing the experience for many weeks. However, I thought I’d get a few thoughts down before things get lost in the daily minutiae when school starts back again tomorrow!

Larry Rosenstock: It’s time to change the subject


A saying that is suitable for life – not just carpentry!

Larry spoke about his school, High Tech High, and the project-based learning approach that they use.

It’s funny (and not in a humorous way) that despite the rapid change that is going on in the rest of society, schools continue to operate in the same way they have for centuries. And this is true of secondary schools in particular.

The school day is still segmented into random times, learning is divided into subjects, and these subjects are given a hierarchical importance. Value continues to be placed most highly on English, mathematics, and science, despite the fact that our students are heading out into a vastly different labour force to the one that schools were originally designed to cater for.

Add to this New Zealand’s NCEA requirements, where learning is separated down even further into artificial and discrete units, and it’s no wonder students may have difficulty applying what they know across curriculum areas and into different contexts.

A key point I got from Larry is that we create false dichotomies in education: projects don’t have to be maths or art, they can be maths and art. Similarly, it doesn’t have to be a student-driven curriculum versus exam based, it can be both. We will need some brave school leadership (and this may have to be prompted from below) that can see learning that puts the student at the centre can still produce the required* NCEA results.

*required by students, parents, schools and the Ministry.


John Dewey – still making sense after all this time

So what, now what?

What does this keynote mean to me and my practice? What impact does this have on the school library?

  • I will definitely stop talking to students about when they are out in “the real world” – they’re already in it!
  • I will look for ways for teachers to collaborate and get cross-curricular links happening – the English and Earth & Space Science information literacy standards seem ripe for this
  • I will champion those subjects deemed lower down in the education hierarchy

Some links and follow ups:


Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

Online life is real life, aleph-nought in a series. A good reminder that this whole online vs real life is an artificial construct. There is just life. Some of it you will spend online. Some of it you will not. And goes towards the point I tried to make at an ICT steering committee meeting – we need to teach our guys about being “good men” in all contexts, and not just inside the school gates. (Shared by John Scalzi on Twitter.)

Why are we still ignoring @SirKenRobinson? Because New Zealand government policy demands us too? Or because our educational leaders are not brave enough to run their schools in ways that meet policy demand but are not driven by them? Either way, it’s pretty much why I left classroom teaching. (Shared by Richard Wells on Twitter.)

No benefit to single-sex education, Australian Psychological Congress to be told. Aargh! As a feminist, I have such angst at working at a boys’ school. This did not help! But I found it a really interesting read as this is the main thrust of the marketing our school runs. Should I put the cat among the pigeons and share it with our SMT? (Shared by Stuart Kelly on Twitter.)

Genre readers have less empathy? I’m not feeling that. A few weeks ago I shared a post about how literary fiction makes us better humans, so it seemed only fair to share Val McDermid’s response. And what a response! Pithy, funny, and throws some shade. Read what you like, people! (Shared by Rachel van Riel on Twitter.)

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

How I made my advertisement in keynote. Some good tricks in here for how to use presentation software to make more than simple slideshows. This post focuses on Apple’s Keynote, but you can probably find similar tools in the software that you use. Oh to have time to play! (Shared by Richard Wells on his blog.)

Always click the first Google result? You might want to stop doing that. As Alison Hewett pointed out when she shared this on Twitter, this is nothing new to librarians! However, this could be the thing to share in case your students or teachers need convincing about moving deeper into their search results and that the filter bubble is really a thing! (Shared by Alison Hewett on Twitter.)

What business are libraries in? I don’t have an elevator pitch. I know I need one, but I find it almost impossible to explain what I do and why it’s important. I agree that it is important to separate out the personnel from the building – but what are my eight words? (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

4 reasons gifted programs are irrelevant. I have quite a few problems with “gifted” programmes. One of the main ones is that generally “gifted” is used to mean smart. Certainly at the school I work at their is no programme for students who are gifted in areas such as the arts or physical education. Another big problem I have with it is that (again, generally speaking) it’s not about the students – it’s about the parents or for school marketing purposes. Why shouldn’t all students be given the care and attention that the “gifted” receive? (Shared by Mark Barnes on Twitter.)

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

“Non-originals” expect a miracle. I get pretty frustrated with my school at times. And also with our education system. This post pretty much sums up why. (Shared by Jennifer la Garde on Twitter.)

We asked people at the library what they’re doing there. People who think that libraries are dying and an unnecessary community expense generally come from a position of privilege – they don’t need to use a library so can’t imagine why anyone else would. This article is a great reminder about the variety of ways that people use libraries and why they continue to remain relevant in the age of the interwebs. (Shared by Sally on Twitter.)

Teaching men to be emotionally honest. I work in a boys’ school. A lot of the time this troubles me. This article did not make me feel better about it! I found it very interesting and I think there is a lot in here to share with men about why they should be feminists too. (Shared by Stephanie on WordPress.)

When teachers highlight gender, kids pick up on stereotypes. A companion piece to the article above; this also made me angst-y about working in a boys’ school. And made me question everything I did as a primary school teacher. Thanks for all the though provoking, Stephanie – I think! (Shared by Stephanie on WordPress.)