Making sense of ACEL

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Back now for a couple of days after three days in Sydney for ACEL, blog posts about some of the individual sessions below, and trying to make sense of what I heard, and sort through a busy three days of sitting and listening mostly.

There were recurring threads this year: compassion, identity and the bigger picture of teaching beyond scores. And ideas that were ‘contested’, PISA particularly, which I found particularly interesting. Hargreaves (who I was disappointed in) and Harris (who I was impressed by) differed greatly on that one (see my tweet below!)

There was also a big gap at times between the quality of the keynotes and the quality of the break-out sessions, some of which were neither inspirational or particularly practical. It was a lot of sitting, I can’t imagine how students cope with this kind of thing all day, two hour sessions, a break, more hours of sitting. I went for a walk at one stage and rediscovered some favourite Sydney haunts, but it was mostly pretty conventional, passive kind of presenting and receiving.

Interesting too, the gap between the big picture future orientated, no time to waste, let’s transform kinds of presenters, to the attendees locked into specific systems and schools; that’s not the agenda at my school kind of thing.  There was some disquiet among people I talked to about opening the conference with a war story, and about killing people as Australian VC winter Mark Donaldson put leadership into a violent context. Context, that was one of the key words for me; big picture vs life in a school, equity vs excellence, Australia vs the world, transformative vs little picture nervousness. Tragically, the last day commenced with a minute’s silence for yet another school shooting in America, thus bookending the conference with images of violence permeating even an education conference.

2015-10-02 06.40.26

Processed with VSCOcam with e5 preset

One of my favourites at the NSW Gallery – John Glover’s idyllic view of Tasmania.Processed with VSCOcam with e5 preset

Bottoms up

Bottoms Up
Dame Jenny Shipley

2015-10-02 09.38.36

Two things New Zealanders always talk about: Maori culture and rugby.

Ambitious, adventurous, brave; the early settlers of Australia and NZ, good lessons for leadership today, she argued, neatly avoiding ideas of invasion and dispossession.

Roles are cloaks we wear, but who are you? Shipley argued for the authentic self in leadership.

Like Hargreaves, Shipley argued that identity was important, knowing who you are, and the importance of students discovering their own identity.

Shipley spoke really well, passionately, and with personal convictions, with some good quotes:

‘The world is flat for this generation’.

‘Are we ready for the age of interactions?’

2015-10-02 09.58.48

Every minute counts

Andy Hargreaves

2015-10-02 08.58.22

‘Every minute counts’, began Hargreaves, opening the final day opening keynote, a presentation I was looking forward to a lot. He began with a personal story of his own life and his mother.

Hargreaves argued that the need was well beyond the basics, beyond 21C skills; it was about finding identity, engagement with history and the world.

He reminded us of old things, Delors in 1925 (learning to know, do, be, live together). He talked big picture, of being bold, of a national priority for ‘joy’ in the curriculum (Finland), of knowing where you want to go.

He made a case for PISA, arguing that evidence matters, especially in revealing matters of equity.

He admitted that boldness was harder to measure, and therefore perhaps riskier to go for; how will you know you’ve got there? But you need to try: to be bold and specific.

He argued for professional capital, for collective efficacy, ‘what do we believe we can do together’, not the star system of programs like Teach for America.

It was all bit scattered in the end, and if I hadn’t read his work, I would have thought even a bit shallow, but the key messages were very strong.

Collaborative curriculum innovation: balancing rigour and engagement.
Mathilda Joubert and Cheryllynne Gostelow

This session, from two Western Australian presenters, began with the need for change, but began with a NAPLAN reference as the need for that change, a marked difference from the emphasis of the presentation this morning.

Their challenge was to develop a personalised curriculum that covers AC, enables progression … but also leads to engagement in rich learning experiences that result in deep learning (21c skills)

What they did was adopt a creative curriculum development process. This begins with student voice, learning from students and use these as ‘hooks’ to develop rigorous curriculum that taps into their interests and passions, balancing rigour and enjoyment. (eg Teaching ratios using Minecraft)

The process was ten steps: (see pic)

Maybe I’m a bit weary, but I had some reservations. I liked the idea of responding to students, but how meaningful? Don’t students have a lot of different interests? I wouldn’t want to have to do a unit on The Bachelorette! And, how does AC match? Wouldn’t there be vast gaps and overlaps? They did address this later.

I liked that they emphasised the ‘soft skills’ of the AC, ‘the hard currency of their future’, showing an approach that is term by term, with students being explicitly taught these skills, which they apply later.

They argued that the themes had to be context free, history is often contextual, and these outcomes are separated out.

Driving an innovation agenda
Ian Williamson

Williamson began his talk about. innovation by emphasising how quickly things can dramatically change.

Only 21% of the 1982 Fortune 500 companies were still on the list in 1982. (aka Kodak and Polaroid and Motorola) He asked the question, ‘why didn’t Sony invent the iPod?’

He argued that no one is immune- ‘Higher education is now ground zero for disruption.’

The biggest barriers to innovation:

  • risk averse culture
  • lengthy development time
  • not enough good ideas

Innovation requires leadership and recognise that different types of knowledge are needed for invention and harnessing (from thought to implementation). He argued for collaboration and integration, using Apple as an example.

What’s holding us back?

In this session Yong Zhau talked about failure and disengagement, about diversity and connections. He talked of multiple intelligences, differing motivations and passions, using ‘Rudolph the red nosed reindeer’ as a metaphor.
He talked about nature via nurture, that the conditions mattered, and also the idea of mastery (10,000 hours and all that) He gently mocked the growth mindset, noting that believing he could become a great footballer wouldn’t make it happen.

But not all diversity is valued, schools make a great guess about what is useful and will be valued, and focus on ’employable skills’. We privilege certain intelligences, talents and motivations. We homogenise kids.

Traditional work is gone: ‘The Second Machine Age’. (book)

He argued that education is broke, needs replacing not fixing. PISA got a drubbing again, a measure of sausage makers, ‘the stupidity of trying to fix the past’, we are seduced by the old paradigm, of education the average. But, in the age ‘of abundance’ we should accommodate all talents and globalisation is way beyond the village and education has side effects too, that we should be aware of: ‘this program will improve your NAPLAN scores but kill off your love of reading forever’.

What’s holding us back?



A new organisational architecture to support blended learning Saint Stephens college, QLD

This session was about how one school is moving to blended learning approaches, and the shifts in teaching and structures required to make that happen.

They focused on the changed role of the teacher and the new ‘architecture’ needed. This approach is a team based one, and the Principal questioned the importance of the teacher in the future.

The session explored the role of the 21c teacher in pretty familiar ways really. They explained their approach to blended learning, the teacher guiding the students through understanding and checking for understanding.

They talked of a KnowledgeWorks article: 7 future roles for educators including ‘data steward’ and ‘micro-credentialing analysts!

They are working on a data dashboard with Independent Schools Qld.

They also appointed a learning coach, targeted using data and said that the roles were definitely increasing.

Interestingly, their students were required to enrol in a MOOC.

They also talked about their LMS, their development of a robust network as the bedrock for the journey and their choice of BrightSpace.

it was interesting to hear about the way they gradually moved the conversation towards blended learning and responding to the Netflix generation, evidenced in weekend and after hours ‘when they want to learn.

They argued for the self-paced benefits of blended approaches.

so, their stages were:

– Infrastructure


– Blended approaches

The last one can make teachers uncomfortable but you can do the first two without making any change at all.

They talked about data, and moving to predictive data, along with a data dashboard to look at results, particularly achieved results against ability. (NAPLAN vs English and Maths results)

Finally, they made a good case for their Academic Advisor program, which they’re expanding, partly based on the parent feedback.

‘If you build it they may not come, but if you don’t …’

Finally, they talked a little about physical architecture, their LOTE building, the Team Projects Area, the Arts and Applied Technology Precinct, I-Centre and ‘Science in Action’ building.

They see a future with fewer teachers and less classroom time.

They talked about the School of One in the USA

it was a good session presented by a passionate team.

Below: three slides from the presentationIMG_9413 IMG_9414



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers