Monday, December 7, 2015

Creating a coaching culture in your organisation

Having identified some of the features and benefits of coaching culture, one of the next considerations is designing a coaching programme. Initial discussions and decisions should involve as many stakeholders as is feasible, and will need to focus on how the design aligns with the values and requirements of the organisation.
Ideally, the factors that will be discussed and decided on as part of the design process, include:
  • identification of outcomes for the entire programme (e.g. impact on organisation-wide behavioural change)
  • how success is going to be evaluated for the overall programme and for the individuals who participate in the programme
  • the approach (e.g. type of coaching model preferred for the organisation; level of personalisability of the programme; focus on both emotional and intellectual learning)
  • the duration
  • time commitment / frequency of sessions
  • connection with other learning initiatives in the organisation
  • people (internal and external) who will be involved (Zeus & Skiffington, 2000)
  • how coaching can fit into / connect with existing learning programmes in the organisation
  • associated change agents who will be involved in the programme
  • budgeting / approval for funding
  • ethics and protocols (especially a mutual ‘duty of care’, and confidentiality)
With my own team, which is pretty flat-structured with people already happy to challenge and support, we worked collaboratively to design a coaching programme and how it would be implemented. Before we started the process we found out more about coaching, shared experiences and resources, and brought in an external coach to work with us on a couple of occasions.

The whole team was enthusiastic and decided that the coaching programme would comprise a combination of working with their own coach with whom they would meet for an hour once a month, as well as self-paced online modules to help them develop their own coaching skills, and an online community of practice to share reflections and learning as well as ask questions / offer support. Ethics and protocols were drawn up, discussed and agreed on. We also designed a range of online templates (editable and adaptable to make them relevant to any situation) to help scaffold initial conversations, along with a check list for the first coach / coachee meeting while the coach was in training, which we shared within the team and made available to the rest of the organisation. The online modules were designed around a specific definition and approach to coaching that reflected the organisation's values and goals, as well as being multimedia rich and directly relevant to the team. Appropriate coaching models, tools and language were developed into the modules, and the activities were all designed around application in practice, reflection on practice, and learning from practice.

Alongside the coaching programme the leaders in the organisation were supportive of the creation of a respectful, non-directive, reciprocal learning and working environment based on ‘helpfulness’. They were also open to being coached (and some are considering participating in the coaching programme going forward). The team was given the opportunity to identify their own goals and aspirations, while the regular meetings with their own coach helped with motivation and accountability as well as supporting their development as a coach. Some participants also did things like print off memory joggers, and ideas of question starters they could use in specific coaching contexts, and pinned these to the wall above their desk.

Within the team the coaching approach is now so embedded it is like ‘breathing’ (Clutterbuck & Megginson, 2005). Each participant’s skills are developing, and the positive impacts are noticeable; for example, there are way more conversations around solutions, as opposed to advice giving around how to solve a problem. There is more openness to thinking through a variety of viewpoints, and this has led to (on the whole) an increase in creative (generative) collaboration and ideas, where team members feel more empowered, valued and heard. Two team members are also undertaking formal qualifications in business coaching, and everyone is committed to continuing to develop their coaching skills next year.


Allen, L. (2013). Tips for coaches: What to do when clients aren’t in movement. Retrieved from
Behavioral Coaching Institute. (2007). Establishing a coaching culture. Retrieved from
Charan, R., & Colvin, G. (1999). Why CEOs fail. Fortune 139(12), 68.
Clutterbuck, D., & Megginson, D. (2005). Making Coaching Work: Creating a coaching culture. London: CIPD.
Crane, T. (2005). Creating a COACHING CULTURE - today's most potent organizational change process for creating a "high-performance" culture. Business coaching worldwide ezine, 1(1). Retrieved from  
Hay, J. (1995). Transformational Mentoring: Creating Developmental Alliances. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.
Haynes, K. (2005). Ten tips for improving your coaching session. In ASTD Training and Performance Sourcebook. Mel Silberman (Ed.). Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) Press. pp. 135-137.
Hoole, E., & Riddle, D. (2015). The Intricacies of Creating a 'Coaching Culture'. Retrieved from
Roesler, S. (2009). Four essential elements of a successful coaching session. Retrieved from
Southern Institute of Technology. (n.d.) Transformational Coaching and its outcomes (Module C) [Lecture notes]. Retrieved from CBC104 (NET).
The Open Door Coaching Group. (2012). How do I build a coaching culture. Retrieved from
Weekes, S. (2008, July). Catch on to coaching. The Edge. 28 - 32. Retrieved from


Image: 'Social Contract' Found on

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The characteristics of a healthy effective coaching culture

Globally, a wide range of organisations and businesses are developing a coaching culture (Weekes, 2008), in the hope of realising a wide range of benefits, that include personal and professional growth (Hay, 1995), resilience in the face of change, business development, talent management, and the fostering of leadership and personal effectiveness. Coaching, when framed as an approach to communication where the initiative and empowerment of the person being coached is emphasised (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015), fosters positive work environments. It also helps incubate a range of leadership approaches - something that research findings indicate have significant performance and health benefits (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015).

While the structure of an organisation cannot directly shape its culture “it can undermine efforts to change” (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015, Para 28). So, at its root, a coaching culture is a model that structures, and helps define, the parameters of what effective interpersonal interactions look and feel like within an organisation. These structures and parameters are firmly underpinned by the values of the organisation, and can support the development of agreed ways that results might be obtained and evaluated (Behavioral Coaching Institute, 2007).  Coaching would not be the only approach used in the organisation, but it would be used wherever appropriate.  It takes time to develop a coaching culture (up to a year or 18 months) because people need to be comfortable within the culture and to develop the necessary coaching skills (The Open Door Coaching Group, 2012).

A coaching culture, however, is not an automatic panacea for all organisational ‘ills’ and a company can interfere with the rate of change because of its existing structural impediments. Hoole and Riddle (2005) identify structural impediments as being, for example, the reward system of a company that compensates executives who use aggressive tactics with little or no recognition of how their actions negatively impact the health of the organisation. In comparison structures that support culture as much as financial performance, are likely to be a positive environment for coaching.

A well-established coaching culture will be one where coaching methodologies are ‘normalised’ within the organisation, For instance, it will be the preferred way of having conversations (Hoole, &; Riddle, 2015). When this occurs, all people within the culture “fearlessly engage in candid, respectful coaching conversations, unrestricted by reporting relationships, about how they can improve their working relationships and individual and collective work performance” (Crane, 2005, Para 3). These conversations will make use of set of coaching tools and the language of coaching to become part of the everyday way of working together. As a result everyone values coaching as an integral part of personal and professional development - as a way of continually learning, improving practice, and positively contributing to the organisation’s goals. However, an integral part of nurturing a coaching culture is also ensuring that staff are provided with formal opportunities and training to develop their own coaching skills. Otherwise, the tendency for people is to default to the neurologically energy-efficient of telling, which “requires less intellectual and emotional energy than engaging …[someone] in a thought process to advance their capability” (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015, Para 29).  

A healthy, effective coaching culture, includes (but is not limited to) a/an:
  • strong organisation-wide identity and commitment to coaching (Crane, 2005), with all staff knowing the goals / strategy of the organisation, as well as the contributions they can make in achieving them
  • coaching approach that impacts behaviour as well as processes, which is captured in role descriptions and professional learning plans
  • shared vision
  • overt valuing of leadership (reciprocal) development throughout an organisation (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015).
  • environment of trust and mutual support
  • atmosphere of creativity and engagement (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015)
  • understanding of the benefits of ongoing learning (adaptive - coping and generative - creating) (Crane, 2005)
  • solution focused (positive) rather than problem focused (negative)
  • recognition that working on the ‘symptoms’ of challenges is not as effective as working on the underlying causes / processes
  • integrated way of formally and informally recognising work / contribution
  • focus on giving others an opportunity to address issues on their own before offering advice or direction
  • appreciation of being part of a respectful, collaborative, learning organisation (Charan, & Colvin, 1999) that encourages positive thinking, and taking / learning from informed ‘risks’
  • mind shift (Crane, 2005) that means staff see themselves as interconnected
  • desire to participate in ongoing learning (Crane, 2005)
  • commitment to openness / provision and seeking of formative feedback
  • focus on growth and helpfulness
  • willingness to take responsibility for actions and the impact they have on others
  • desire to explore how they create their own reality, and therefore how they can change it
An organisation with a robust coaching culture is likely to encourage a positive working environment, cross-organisational, innovation, increased productivity - and lead to personal, professional...and organisational...growth. This in turn can help ensure that the organisation remains responsive and nimble in today’s world of fast-paced communication, diversity, global competition and change.


Behavioral Coaching Institute. (2007). Establishing a coaching culture. Retrieved from
Crane, T. (2005). Creating a COACHING CULTURE - today's most potent organizational change process for creating a "high-performance" culture. Business coaching worldwide ezine, 1(1). Retrieved from  
Hay, J. (1995). Transformational Mentoring: Creating Developmental Alliances. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.
Hoole, E., & Riddle, D. (2015). The Intricacies of Creating a 'Coaching Culture'. Retrieved from
The Open Door Coaching Group. (2012). How do I build a coaching culture. Retrieved from
Weekes, S. (2008, July). Catch on to coaching. The Edge. 28 - 32. Retrieved from


'Monarch butterfly emerging from chrysalis' Found on

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Coaching under the microscope

Coaching has a wide range of characteristics, some of which are related to the definition of coaching that you choose to work with.
In general, the main characteristics of coaching in all approaches include the notion of change. Learning, by its very nature is change, such that when we learn we will have changed our skills, behaviour, our beliefs, our identity, or a combination of all four. As such, coaching is a way of a coach and coachee (or team) to work together in a collaborative, egalitarian, supportive relationship where the desired outcome is positive change that relates to specific outcomes.

During the process of being coached (and coaching) people will develop areas such as motivation, while also experiencing shifts in attitude, both of which help enhance practice by, for instance, becoming more effective. However, a central element here is that the coachee becomes more aware of, as well as their strengths, the areas on which they need to work, so that they can ‘own’ both, and take responsibility to develop professionally.

Another fundamental characteristic is the bespoke nature of coaching. In a coaching relationship there will be no prescribed formal ‘content’ or formal assessment. Instead the coach and coachee work together to identify goals, enablers, challenges, and action points. To ensure that this process is smooth, the coach and coachee must have good communication skills. The coach also needs to be able to support and appropriately challenge the coachee. In turn, the coachee needs to be open to sharing their own experiences in a way that leaves them free to identify the direction they want to take, and draw on their own determination to achieve positive results. This high level of motivation will be necessary if, initially, there are more drawbacks than successes. This will help ensure the coachee does not become defensive, but rather values the drawbacks as opportunities for them to be proactive, and to reflect and learn.

This highlights another characteristic of coaching: close professional relationships. To enable coaching to function a coach must be able to help build a positive relationship and rapport with their coachee, and the coachee must value the process and be open to trying new things. The coach and coachee should start by learning about each other so that their relationships can be honest, and based on mutual respect. Both parties will need to feel that their cultural backgrounds, beliefs, values and practices are considered and respected by the other party. Only from this place of trust, commitment and engagement will they want to continue to work together to shape the focus and form of the coaching.

The final characteristic I am going to discuss is the work context. Practical considerations such as access to people, data and resources are an important influence on the effectiveness of coaching. Another essential part of the success equation for coaching, psychologically and physiologically, is whether the coachee’s organisation is supportive of coaching as a valid form of professional development (Center for Creative Leadership, 2012). The amount of emotional support from the organisation, especially the level of caring, approval and respect provided by the coachee’s colleagues and managers in relation to a coachee’s professional growth, will directly impact that coachee’s resilience in the face of hardship and their determination to overcome challenges (Center for Creative Leadership, 2012).

What have I missed? Anything you don't agree with?


Center for Creative Leadership. (2012). The Coach’s View: Coach and Coachee Characteristics Add Up to Successful Coaching Engagements. [White Paper]. Retrieved from
Image: 'blue iris on grey background' Found on

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

iJoos Mind/Getty Images

This podcast, from the awesome TED Radio Hour (NPR), has a lot to think about - especially if you are working in a place where collaboration is king, and anything else is seen as second best. The description from the site advises that "In this hour, TED speakers unravel ideas behind the mystery of mass collaborations that build a better world"; just a small goal :)

To help illustrate a variety of points of view and experiences the podcast presenter interviews TED presenters and weaves together their comments with their TED presentation. The compare and contrast format helps juxtapose some gnarly questions and ideas. Well worth listening to.

I have included from the TED Radio Hour site a selection of the sub 'chapters' in the episode, but you might just like to listen to the full show on Why we collaborate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Meeting the costs of coaching

It was telling for me, in the article “New study sheds light on manager-coaches” (although not so new - from 2009), that those in more senior positions were more likely to use mature coaching approaches because they had the time and space to do so. This finding, for me, indicates that coaching isn’t a panacea to all business issues or a ‘quick fix’ option, although it is effective when properly resourced. As such, it was interesting that coaching was framed by many line managers, who participated in the research study, as a “burden” - a word used twice in four questions from the CIPD report.

There is also a clear indication in the report that many managers are not themselves supported to develop coaching skills prior to starting coaching work with their team members. This could, in turn, help explain why there were both primary and mature coaching approaches identified by the study. Perhaps there is also a need to differentiate between leadership and management? Not all managers are leaders, and not all leaders are managers - and maybe the more participatory  “mature coaching” approach tends to be used by managers who are also leaders?

Ultimately a business needs to really invest in coaching and to integrate it into their culture. This requirement is highlighted by the three key recommendations from the report: 1) coaching needs to be viewed as a business issue; 2) roles and expectation need to be clear; and 3) skills development, resourcing and support are essential. Perhaps this is why consistent use of coaching is “virgin territory” for “three-quarters of businesses” - the initial investment appears to be very high!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A catalyst for change? Coaching and mentoring

John Whitmore, in his article, Will coaching rise to the challenge? throws down a wero (challenge) for coaching as a profession.
He opens by describing some of the possible benefits of the economic crisis in the States (the article was written in 2009), highlighting the fact that apparent negative setbacks can be a catalyst for review and change. In particular Whitmore outlines how people can be sparked into taking opportunities to escape from the illusion of wealth, especially with support such as that provided by coaching. The process can lead to a change in attitude and viewpoint - both of which are fundamentally important in shaping outlook. Coaches can ask new questions about a person’s job, relationships and lifestyle that can help them re-assess their purpose, life, and values. As such, two primary products of coaching are a growth of a person’s awareness and responsibility, which apply to all aspects of life.
Whitmore also talks about leadership, ranging from the pragmatic (people in leadership roles are often unaware of the benefits and availability of coaching), to the conceptual (we do not need to wait around for the ‘next great leader’). Instead, he advocates for leadership from within, in part through the development of self-responsibility - something that many people need to develop. Coaches, using skills such as asking, as opposed to telling, and pulling rather than pushing, alongside rigorous frameworks and strategies for working with sustainable change, can help people develop the skills to meet and adapt to altering circumstances.
To achieve this, Whitmore asserts that coaches need to keep up to date with current affairs and global shifts - and this is where he throws down the wero - can coaching change? It has already made a move from a one-to-one coaching to working with large groups and institutional change. Can it become more global so that it can impact humanity as a whole? To do this would require a change of focus from individual to collective responsibility, as well as an acceptance that, if a coach’s ideals are more inclusive than the person who they are coaching, then their values need to precedence.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, although I had to think long and hard about the notion of the coach’s ideals taking the forefront. The more I mull it over, however, it makes sense. As a mentor working in a group of mentors, we have often discussed how we work with mentees whose ideals differ fundamentally to ours to the point that they are not comfortable on any level. In particular some of the unquestioned biases that a mentee may have. We talked about the skill of asking questions that help a person hold up a mirror to themselves seeming to be essential, as well as carefully asking the difficult questions. There was also agreement. however, that if a mentee’s views were derogatory and extremely biased we would clearly state disagreement. It’s a tricky space to work in, but as Whitmore says, coaching (and I would also add mentoring) has “the means to construct exactly what is most needed all over at this time, the individual and collective responsibility essential for the survival of life as we know it” (Whitmore, 2009, p. 3). Would be great to read what you think.


Whitmore, J. (2009). Will coaching rise to the challenge? The OCM Coach and Mentor Journal 2009, pp 2-3.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Underpinning theory and practice with kaupapa Māori: Mobile learning framework

My friend and colleague whaea Yo Heta-Lensen has observed that "online and blended learning courses are often written to instructional design guidelines that have been developed from a specific theoretical viewpoint taking a one-size fits all approach that cares little for indigenous knowledges" (Heta-Lensen, in press).

It was great, therefore, to see He Whare Ako He Whare Hangarau, work done by Dr Acushla Sciascia and Dr Claudio Aguayo, as part of the NPF14LMD - Learners and Mobile Devices Ako Aotearoa National Fund Project.  Would be good to read your thoughts and reactions :)

Acushla and Claudio share that the He Whare Ako, He Whare Hangarau framework weaves "kaupapa Maori theories, values and approaches to learning and teaching (ako) and provides distinct mobile learning parallels of theory and practice, conceptualised into the visual of a metaphorical wharenui (traditional meeting house). The framework depicts the relationship between ako and mLearning and engages a range of pedagogies that are culturally responsive and that are open to the affordances of technologies. The framework is a values-based approach to understanding the role of mobile devices in the learning context".

Key objectives include:
  • Locating the teacher/learner at the centre and consider both as co-learners / co-teachers
  • Underpinning theory and practice with kaupapa Māori values such as whanaungatanga, kotahitanga, whakamana, manaakitanga, etc
  • Weaving mLearning theories and frameworks that espouse best practice   teaching and learning strategies using technology
  • Encouraging new approaches and pedagogies for teaching and learning that are culturally responsive
  • Conceptualising how the affordances of mobile learning and devices contributes to the learning process and overall learner experience
You can read an overview here:, and watch the video below as well as access the accompanying Prezi presentation.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ka Hikitia: Phase 5 (2010-2012) report

Jill Parfitt kindly shared the latest report on Te Kotahitanga effectiveness to be released by the Ministry: KA HIKITIA - A Demonstration Report Effectiveness of Te Kotahitanga Phase 5 2010-2012.
An excerpt from an introduction to the report reads:
Notably, Effectiveness of Te Kotahitanga Phase 5, 2010-12 finds that: “the achievement of Māori students (as measured by NCEA levels 1–3) in Phase 5 schools improved at around three times the rate of Māori in the comparison schools,” “the proportion of Māori students coming back into year 13 increased markedly in Phase 5 schools,” and “by 2012 the number of year 13 students achieving NCEA level 3 in Phase 5 schools was nearly three times what it had been four years earlier.” (p. 2)
Te Kotahitanga was a gem of a program from an international perspective, not only for its sound theoretical basis, its well-conceptualized model of teacher professional development, and its positive impact on Māori student outcomes, but also for its consistently wise use of research. (p.3)

Image: Kahu huruhuru. CC ( BY NC ND ) licensed Flickr image by hazelowendmc:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Student voice and cultural responsivesness

This powerful post was shared by Manu Faaea-Semeatu, where she looks at a poem called "Voice" that she wrote last month and featured on her blog. Would be awesome to read your thoughts and reactions.
Manu writes" The principal of Holy Family School in Porirua - Chris Theobald (@The0bald) reached out to me on Twitter to ask if he could film two students reciting the poem. Enjoy!"
a poem inspired by expectations and and hesitations. . . 
I am expected to speak
Eyes bore into mine as I make eye contact
I wait patiently, waiting for an opportunity
None is given
Should I interrupt and make a case for myself?
I struggle internally, this is not how I'm raised
I must sit quietly and wait for a chance to speak
I need to find my voice
You expect me to speak
But do you want to listen?
Can you really hear what I'm saying?
You are impatient
Should I interrupt and make you listen?
You struggle internally, this is now how you're raised
You stand tall, and take up every chance to speak
You need to find my voice

Introducing Joziah and Ethan - with two different approaches to the poem :-)


Monday, June 1, 2015

Metamorphosing from traditional to modern learning practices

Modern learning pedagogy is likely to be a long slow journey, with a number of mistakes made along the way, and it's not always going to be easy.

Headspace is key, advises Vicki Hagenaars. You need to have your head in that space; to have been immersed and exposed to a number of different environments. It is essential to listen to the students as well. Students will often raise questions or requirements that may not have otherwise have been considered.

Often the stages taken are 1) connectivity, 2) a change in environment, and 3) then a change in the way of learning via, for instance, communities and reflective portfolios.
One of the initial things that was used in step 1 in the example Vicki shared was a blog (blogspot) - that was owned and populated by the students. The site has now had over 1000 hits, and the students are delighted. It was quite a big step forward for senior management as they weren't sure about having the students voices and images out in the public space.

This was the caterpillar stage. The computers went into the classrooms, and the desktops were, over time, replaced by laptops. The infrastructure, however, was really dodgy. This has since changed.

The process is slow, and often painful. The caterpillar has to disintegrate and re-assemble into the butterfly to then emerge and fly.

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery...

Friday, May 29, 2015

Cultures making connections

Students who identify as Pasifika, whose cultural background is one of the many the Pacific Islands - what is their experience of learning in a school around Ashburton, Christchurch - Ashcoll to be exact? And if you take a large pinch of Ceilidh, a heap of enthusiasm, and a wide range of cultural backgrounds - what happens? Nearly 8% of the students at Ashburton College are Pasifika.

In the school there are no teachers from the Pacific Islands so the teachers step up as leaders. At the Ceilidh, there were breaks so there was a wonderful moment where the students were dancing in the interval to the delight of the Scottish fiddle band. It was the most amazing connections between disparate groups of people who would not normally have connected. Teachers, students, people from the community, laughing, talking and having fun - the most fun fundraising(for the students to go to Samoa) that was had in a long time...and it was people who would maybe not have been involved.

The kids are running the thing, and you have to 'get over yourself' and engage and be part of it.

It's all about process and progress, and student agency. We can't teach them, they have to teach each other. Five years coming to the VPLD, four years going to the speech fest. Each year we have come away with prizes. All that Marg can do is support, including with practical aspects such as driving around to pick students up for practice - but then all Marg has to do is be there and unlock the door. The students take it from there!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The discomforts of change

What happens when a school isn't working - for the learners, the community, and the teachers? Sometimes it's a case of bringing in the broom, working with leadership, and then starting again. 
Gavin Clark shared his story from the Board resigning, the Commission coming in, and the subsequent changes in leadership. The school is now undergoing a process of revisioning, which includes consultation with the community and with the learners. 
The arising challenges include the pace of change. The pressure is on to make a difference from day one for learners - and progress is more important than attainment. Other key factors that will help ensure the school can keep up with the rate of change include setting expectations clearly and co-constructing these if possible, and supporting staff to step up and take responsibility for their professional development. 
 In 2014 a survey with students illustrated that students appreciated the integration of technology into the curriculum, but that staff did't value this. As a result, in 2015, this has become a non-negotiable. Staff development is tracked, and student voice is collected every 2 terms, and community voice is collected once a term. Constant reflection is one of the requirements of ensuring that this level of impact is continued. 
 Massive change is possible, but, as Gavin's story illustrates, it isn't comfortable. Some people found it so uncomfortable in this case, they have chosen to leave. The benefits for learners however, appear to be huge. Can't wait to see some of the emerging results from this change.

Image: Silverdale students, From the Silverdale Primary School Web site.

Student agency: Some benefits

Student voice and student agency are key to learning. However, this doesn't always seem to be an unquestioned (inconvenient?) 'truth'.

Lorraine Makatu explains what happens when student agency is supported and nurtured.

Mangere Central School has sister schools in Bali, and Lorraine shares some of the experiences of students who start to explore different places and life experiences in Indonesia and Jakarta, for example. The school web site is the portal, and the families are able to go in and see and ask questions. The students asked questions like: 'what did they eat?', 'Are they on Facebook?', and 'Will they Snapchat with me?'. It was a reality check when one Skype call used the whole Bali school's data for the week.

The students are also involved in local projects such as the SH20 upgrade, where students are working with the environmental managers of the project to help ensure the environment around the school is protected. For example, a culvert was dug and some eels were found. So now, all of the eels are being relocated. The health and safety manager is also being shadowed by one of the students - they are making connections with what is in the school such that students are walking around saying things like 'someone will trip on these shoes'.

These are great illustrations of transference - making connections between knowledge domains, and applying the learnings across them. They also show how students are developing identities, taking on roles, and making connections between their current world views and the other domains around them.

Collaborations and connections

Me, us, you - over time we make connections, grow and expand out thinking. Over time we come back together in groups to connect with people we know. The collaborations that develop from those connections can be incredibly powerful.

Heather Eccles, Krishna Ramadugu, and Geoff Wood highlight that much of their professional learning has been about specific collaborations and connections that they have made, initially by being part of the Virtual Professional Learning Development (VPLD) programme. Krishna talked about light and what it means to her: "It's the lamp of knowledge that can light the fire of thousands more and yet not diminish in its brilliant. It benefits both the giver and the receiver".

Krishna made contact with Geoff, who heads up the Over the Back Fence (OTBF) project. Where there are connections between students with the older students leading sessions for the younger students (tuakana teina). There have also been sessions where authors have beamed in for sessions with the students, and connecting different cultures with groups in India.

Some of the outcomes, for all the learners, have included the enjoyment of students learning from each other in a way that is experience driven, rather than content driven. It has encouraged students to engage and participate, and to embrace new literacies, as well as developing a deep sense of fulfilment in sharing. Curiosity has developed along with a desire to learn and succeed.

Geoff and Anne Kenealley started to talk about connecting classrooms at a bus stop after a conference. Since then the project has burgeoned, with students running sessions online with other students around the world. The connections have been amazing, opening up worlds and windows on cultures and understandings that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. It's the global connections - the questioning of early-formed beliefs, and a way of helping the youth shape their understandings of the world.

Going back to the whole notion of connections - they are myriad. They involve young learners, older learners, teachers, education leaders...all with a thirst for learning and eye for the potential of the affordances of technology. Bringing us back's not the's what you do with it!!

So - what connections are you making? How are you exploring and opening up the world of learning for yourself? How are you empowering your learners to open up their own world?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Experiential learning and reciprocity in action

We are so lucky to live for as much of our time as possible in a place up in the north of New Zealand, that we love.

Over the last 5 or so years (and after doing a lot of homework) we have planted over 20,000 trees and plants (see pic on the left to see what it looked like in Year 1!). We have planted a lot of native trees, heaps of trees for bird food, and a lot of plants that have blossom for bees (see pic on right for a Year 4 comparison - including over 500 lavender plants, and a couple of hundred rosemary plants).

Through trial and error, as well as by seeking advice from the wonderful folk in the neighbourhood, we learned what would and wouldn't grow, when and where. We also planted our orchard, and have planned our veggie gardens.

Next step - the bees. A while ago I'd bought a book on beekeeping, and decided that full scale beekeeping may be a step too far...but I had heard, and read a bit, about folks who were keen to keep their hives in suitable places such as (fingers crossed) ours. By dint of a chance conversation, Grant Engel from Revolutionary Beekeeping Ltd came to see our place, and to my delight, is going to bring his fabulous bees to work with us!

Grant will come to check on the bees to make sure they are healthy and well-fed, and he also harvests the honey they produce with his innovative mobile honey harvester (see videos below for a demonstration). In return, these fabulous insects will make the most of the blossoms, including in our orchard and (soon) veggie garden, and in turn do a wonderful job of fertilising the flowers so we get fruit and veg. O - and the pot of honey a month will be a fabulous treat - plus we get to be serenaded by gentle buzzing.

I love the reciprocity of the whole cycle, and was also particularly impressed with Grant's enthusiasm for his bees and for beekeeping. Revolutionary Beekeeping states that they will not only "provide a service that will support, educate and fairly reward our clients", but that they will also "continue to create innovative technology that will make beekeeping easier and more enjoyable", and "focus on the health and sustainability of beekeeping as it plays a vital role in global food production" (source). Can't be better than that!

At the end of the day - the whole process has been about planning, finding out what is needed, applying, learning (often through mistakes), hard work, trying different approaches, and figuring out next steps...sound familiar? :)


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

'I can': A movement underpinned by design thinking

This inspirational video illustrates very clearly what an incredible responsibility we have as educators. A reaction can undermine a learner's confidence, and leave them with an "I can't response" if we're not really careful. However, sometimes from set backs, great things can grow, and Kiran Bir Sethi, from Ahmedabad, India, after her son experienced a blow to his learning, has started a "movement of empowerment and education that has reached over 30 countries – impacting more than 25 million children. She shares with the audience what happens when learning environments are infected by the 'I CAN' bug and how design thinking has been used to create empowered individuals who can be agents of change" (source).

The description that accompanies the video reads "Kiran Bir Sethi is a designer and director of The Riverside School, but also the founder of the 'Design for Change' - the world’s largest movement of change – of and by children. Based on four simple steps - Feel, Imagine, Do and Share - children around the world have developed ideas and projects to drive social change in their society. She shows vivid and inspiring cases of social transformation that promotes optimism in education. Her talk asserts that new and better things are possible and that each of us can make change happen. After this talk, you will realize that change is the result of a process that can be consciously nurtured and energized " (source).

Would be great to hear what you think about the 'I can' approach underpinned by design thinking - and similar things that you are undertaking with your learners (of all ages). Please leave responses in the comments below.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Why, how and where to podcast: A guide from Buzzsprout

Shared by Darren DeMatas, How to Make a Podcast, is a really clear, easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide, which uses a range of multimedia to demonstrate and inform anyone who is interested in podcasting.

The guide also includes some indicative pricing if you are serious about getting into podcasting.
Buzzsprout, who produced the guide, offers a hosting option. The option has a free plan available, and you don't need to enter your credit card details to sign up.
I'd highly recommend this guide!

Image: Publish once update everywhere. From the Buzzsprout site:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

NMC Horizon Report 2014: A must read

Recommended by Richard Elliott in an eLearning Watch 'extra' (which you can subscribe to on his site), is the The NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition.
A review of the report can be found by clicking this hyperlink . A brief highlight of some of the key aspects of the report is:
"The experts agreed on two long-term trends: advancing learning environments that are flexible and drive innovation, as well as increasing the collaboration that takes place between higher education institutions".
"Regarding the challenges for universities and colleges, improving digital literacy is considered one of the solvable challenges". 
"Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the flipped classroom are expected to be increasingly adopted by institutions in one year’s time or less to make use of mobile and online learning. The time-to-adoption for makerspaces and wearable technology are estimated within two to three years, while adaptive learning technologies and the Internet of Things is expected to be mainstream in universities and colleges within four to five years."
Well worth a read.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why does a civilisation dominated by experts find it so difficult to respond to reality rather than ideology? (Nigel Latta)

I think there there are few in New Zealand and beyond who will not be aware of Nigel Latta. He has been involved in a few TV series and documentaries, including around education.
Starting with a discussion about science, Nigel talked about his experience of doing a session about gravity hanging out of a window, and then another about hyperthermia...and what it's like to hang out a window in an uncomfortable harness, and then standing in a freezer for an hour and 15 minutes in a shirt. Interestingly, it was when he came out that he started to get hyperthermic.

He mentioned that he likes engaging people in education - and science is seen as a "distant aunt who doesn't come to the Christmas dinner and that type of stuff". "If you are talking to kids about climate change"..."it's all important, but as you read the supporting documents a little bit of your start to shrivel up". "It's about engaging people in the world". Rather, if you say "do you want to see something that's freakin' cool...which could is going to say no?". Nigel demonstrated with a time lapse view of the heart beat of the planet as ice forms and melts.

Using the example of the 'story' of the Harley Davison and the image as a way of hooking people in, realising that "the stuff that you've got is really cool". "Maths is the perfect example. I went all the way through school thinking that maths was boring". It was only later that he realised that maths is fascinating, and exciting! (and highlighted a podcast about Prime numbers where the speaker was incredibly passionate).

Nigel moved on to the question "Why does a civilisation dominated by experts find it so difficult to respond to reality rather than ideology?" (John Ralston Saul), and talked about some instances where experts from outside of communities make decisions that make no sense in context. It is underpinned by the notion that "providers are self-interested whereas providers in Wellington has everybody's interest at heart". He moved on to a quote by Edward de Bono "you can't dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper" - in other words doing the "same old same old stuff doesn't work" you keep doing the same thing!

Statistically stuff changes in people's lives, so if you stand close enough to some of the "worst cases" you are able to benefit from some of the reflected glory - it was said humorously, but it made a great point. He goes on to describe listing all your assumptions, and crossing off all you are sure off and then the two or three that are left over at the end of the process they are often the ones that contain the seed of what is actually happening and might be influenced.

"When it comes to thinking we are not very good at it". Nigel gave a thumbnail sketch from the beginning of the universe to now, and on the way through indicated that humans developed to cooperate, collaborate, and create. Part of this process is refining tools and tweaking them to do things that haven't been done before - and Nigel showed the video of the astronaut who made the first music video in space. In part it was to show that curiosity and 'amazement' can lead to astounding progressions...some of which are to make life better. He also made the point that "basically we are using the same stone age brain".

We also have a way of filtering what we do or do not believe, giving the example of standing on the scales weighing yourself - "if you like the number you see" you accept it, if you don't "you get off and fiddle with the knobs" etc. We are pretty poor when it comes to thinking and making decisions. Some of it, system 1 thinking is instinctual (e.g. and angry cat), the system 2 takes a lot of energy and brains don't necessarily want to expend a lot of energy, especially when humans were hunting and gathering. "If a bat and a ball together cost $1.10, and the bat costs $1 more than the much does the ball cost?" (answer below :D). We didn't develop to solve problems like this, and we haven't developed to have the number of relationships we currently do. Which means we are having to adapt and change...and that is why "change is so hard".

The more we do something the more we 'hard-wire' it into our brains. For instance, if we learn the piano it starts off as difficult but then gets easier...and we can't 'un-learn' it. So - change is really uncomfortable as we are having to 're-wire'. Human beings are therefore influenced by this, and are pretty terrible at making decisions. It's really worth checking out Daniel Kahneman and his research. As such, the idea of certainty is the most dangerous thing. We all make dumb decisions, and understanding that we make such poor decisions and planning is a myth.

All the time "opinion is reported as fact", and research is misinterpreted and incorrectly summarised and presented. Therefore, Nigel feels that data is really important and can provide parts of a puzzle that can inform the picture - and opinions - we then form. Data tells you things about the world that you don't know (however - note from me - a caveat is that it does depend on how the human(s) who collect the data, interpret it - humans have been 'certain' about things based on data, until it has been re-interpreted, often when other data becomes available).

Nigel then moved on to talk about Carol Dweck's work about fixed and growth mindsets. "If you have the growth mindset and feedback ... when you get the option you will go for the hard option" - the growth mindset. So, it's more positive to say to a young learner that 'that was really good, you worked really hard', rather than, 'that was really good, you're really smart'. The former keeps the door open, even in the face of things going wrong - encouraging experimentation and risk, the latter - when you hit a snag, suggests that you are not smart. Anything is possible for almost all human beings, it's all to do with strategy, attitude and effort. "Human beings work on a growth mindset model".

John Hattie's research, “Visible Learning”, has collected data that illustrates, for example, class size doesn't matter, but micro-teaching and feedback does (you can find a brief summary on this site). The most powerful predictor of success is students' expectation of themselves. So, if you have an environment with young learners and a constant focus of raising expectations of themselves, there is likely to be a consistent raising of achievement. You can change people's expectations of themselves!
Nigel brought us back to engagement, and how to engage people - or how people become engaged. Often big industries are risk averse, such as TV. He told the story of how he got worked to get the opportunity to make a programme in the Antarctic. What he really hopes is that "kids will start to watch this and think science is really cool", and want to get into science as a profession. "There are jobs that you can do in science that are astoundingly interesting". This has led him to make a science show to bring science back to TV - and making it interesting, fun, and relevant.

I really enjoyed this session - entertaining, thought-provoking, a little bit provocative. It definitely provided some ideas around 'how'. Your thoughts? Please share in the comments below :D

'2011-07-29' Found on
'Cave Deer' Found on
'AK3' Found on
Answer to maths problem = 5 cents

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Adam Fletcher's willingness to share his expertise, his drive to support youth, and his ability to challenge entrenched thinking, never fail to inspire me! So, it was great to find that Adam had been working hard to write and make available his latest book, which I highly recommend: A Short Introduction to Youth Engagement in the Economy FREE (81 pgs, 2015).

Over the last six months, Adam explains, he has "written more than a dozen articles about youth engagement in the economy" (source) that cover some of the "most forward-thinking about economic youth engagement" (source). He has compiled them into a publication, weaving the key themes together, and adding a number of important points.

Some of the questions he asks to help raise awareness in specific contexts include:
  • What opportunities are there for youth engagement in the economy through your workplace, program, organization, school or community
  • What does youth engagement cost?
  • How is youth engagement funded?
  • How is youth engagement financed (e.g., parents, building partnerships, government sources, making better use of resources, etc.)?
  • How is youth engagement in the economy sustained in your community?" (p. 77)
In the guide, Adam is "addressing youth employment, youth entrepreneurship, youth training, youth banking, youth programs, school classes and other activities" (source). He suggest that employers, youth workers, teachers, and others committed to building the economy through youth engagement, would find the guide of interest.

If you have already downloaded and read the book, please share with your networks. You can also check out Adam's other free guides, on his website. Please support Adam's amazing work.