2011 Lesson #8 – Knowing and growing the tribe: some amazing educators

21st century learning - the best!


Isn’t Twitter amazing! I have been in schools since 1978. But nothing has been like 2011, a real game-changing year for me, because I decided to take Twitter seriously. What I have discovered is a world of like-minded people who daily provide inspiration and ideas. A tribe. My tribe. I have also worked out who are some of the leaders of this new global tribe. Very 21st century practice – I can ‘pull’ learning down to me from the plethora of tweets injected into the twitterverse on any given second. No longer am I reliant on one-size-fits-all professional development courses pushed on to me.

I suspect that if we can effectively harness the collective energy and experiences of this new tribe, we might have the capacity to establish fresh vision for learning. World history has demonstrated powerfully in 2011 how social media can change the direction of nations. Ironically, education has always been the slow learner in comparison with other societal institutions, but maybe, just maybe, we could direct the revolution from within.

This blog is to share some of the people who have shaped my thinking this year – and I’d love to hear of your experiences and contacts. I will cautiously share how they have helped shaped my thinking – and in so doing thank them.

WISE – I had never heard about this summit before June this year. It is organized and sponsored by the visionary Qatar Foundation. The 3rd one was held in November 2011. I was honoured to be an invited speaker. Why was it so inspirational? The cross section of passionate educators from all round the globe, especially with those from less ‘vocal’ countries, meant that every conversation was fascinating, thought provoking and inspirational. The format was great (largely interview style). Among many providing input, Gordon Brown gave an outstanding – and seemingly spontaneous – talk. It’s worth watching the video (http://www.wise-qatar.org/content/rt-hon-gordon-brown-mp-teachers-are-biggest-influencers). And where else might you have breakfast with the Saudi Minister for Education, share a bus trip with the ex-chair of the Nobel Prize foundation, hear Marc Prensky over lunch and have ‘speed date’ style chats with multiple people about their passion for learning.

Some amazing educators I have met on the global road this year (an apologies if I leave some out):

Charles Leadbeater (@wethink) – Charles is one of those people whose name is revered globally – I guess largely as a result of his outstanding TED sessions. To have the opportunity to meet him and learn more first hand was one of the real highlights of 2011. Charles’ work as a commentator on and observer of innovative practice in education is inspirational. Charles’ latest book: Innovation in Education: Lessons from Pioneers around the World,
is very helpful in broadening the focus of education away from being the domain of the first world alone. (http://www.wise-qatar.org/content/21-wise-book-launch). Thanks Charles for your connecting me with WISE and Valerie Hannon of the UK Innovation Unit.

Dr Becky Parker (@langtonstar) – is an inspirational Physics teacher from Simon Langton Grammar School: Becky is passionate, engaging and I think seemingly single handedly churning out 1% of the entire UK physics entrants to university. I don’t think I have ever met anyone with such immediate verve, passion and commitment to education and the students with whom she learns. I highly recommend watching a couple of these youtube videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbuSZ3-8TLw; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Bup2kCsTYc to gain a quick understanding of the impact passion can have on learners and learning. Becky Parker is also looking for active participants in her global Space Lab project. It may just suit some of your students.

Béa Beste – When I received a twitter request from a German educator to visit us here in Sydney, I was both flattered and intrigued. When I met Béa, I immediately connected with someone who thinks out of the box – and someone who is actively on the hunt for creating ‘playful’ learning environments. Béa gave us an amazing gift this year – she has observed, analysed and reflected upon the work of SCIL. It might seem somewhat disarming to have someone so accurately sum up your intentions, thought processes and vision. But it is also incredibly helpful. (http://www.playducation.org/blog-reader/items/the-special-agents-of-change.html; http://www.playducation.org/blog-reader/items/big-five-of-innovation.html; http://www.playducation.org/blog-reader/items/the-oyster-of-good-learning.html; http://www.playducation.org/blog-reader/items/the-power-of-openness-of-place-people-and-pedagogy.html) Béa’s drive for new resources and modes of learning has seen her start playDUcation in Berlin. The team are creating some highly innovative modules and quests for ensuring that learning is not only fun, but life changing. (@playducation; www.playDUcation.org; http://www.playducation.org/playDUers.html). I encourage anyone who has a playful sense of fun, likes people who continually think and think and think … to follow the entrepreneurial spirit of Béa.

PlayDUcation team (http://www.playducation.org/playDUers.html ) While I only had a couple of days on Berlin, I had the opportunity to see an IDEO-style team of passionate people grow something from a concept to reality. Their website captures the heart of this fun team – who are authentically creating education products from a blend of educational understanding and entrepreneurship. Among others, the team includes Basti Hirsch (@cervus), a deep thinker and himself entrepreneurial in approach, as well as Peter Bannert (@peterbannert). Basti is involved with the Sandbox Network (www.sandbox-network.com; @sandbox_network – a group that links young passionate entrepreneurs from around the world. This would be a fantastic group to highlight with any exiting students in the senior years.

Oliver Beste (www.founderslink.com) – Oliver definitely deserves separate mention as his inclusion in amazing people connected with education for me came through his wife, Béa. Oliver taught me a great deal in the space of a few days, simply by having him observe at close quarters the operation of the school and then gain his perspective on the school from an entrepreneur’s focus. That experience highlighted for me the benefit of different ways of thinking, as well as the need to learn from other societal sectors – ones that don’t naturally have an intersection with schools.

Brian Bennett (@bennettscience ; http://www.brianbennett.org/) – I met Brian completely by coincidence at the iNACOL Virtual School Symposium at Indianapolis in November. Brian was a share-presenter during a session on blended learning www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlYo0pBM27U. Hearing him speak for 10 minutes immediately cemented him into being (at least from my perspective) one of the most outstanding new teachers I have ever met. Brian is in his second year of teaching. He spoke about his experience of #flipclass teaching – very worthwhile watching some of the Youtube clips: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tRsW8dcSNM . Brian uses Twitter during a conference session like shorthand – way to go. It wasn’t just his passion that impressed – he so totally gets what education needs to be about. The future of education needs people like Brian Bennett. Thinking about emigrating to Sydney, Brian?

Aaron Sams (@chemicalsams; chemicalsams.blogspot.com; http://www.coolinfographics.com/blog/2011/9/13/the-flipped-classroom-infographic.html) I became more aware of the work of Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman (who I haven’t met yet) courtesy of Brian Bennett. The groundswell of flipped classroom learning that Aaron and Jonathan started is phenomenal. And it makes such sense. This link gives more background: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkzuHlCepww. I had an engaging two hour conversation with Aaron at Castle Rock, Colorado. I think what really impressed me about Aaron is that he started his journey of pedagogic shift authentically in the classroom, clearly prepared to take a few risks and then simply enthuse others. Aaron is to direct his transformational thinking and practice into new areas later 2012 and I’ll look forward to observing how #flipclass thinking and a broader intuitive understanding of education could impact college level learning.

Matthew Anderson (@matthewquigley) & Kelly Tenkley (@ktenkely) – (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/18/idUS217960+18-May-2011+BW20110518; http://ilearntechnology.com/; http://reformsymposium.com/blog/2011/07/23/kelly-tenkely/; http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/2010/12/04/building-the-twitter-academy-interview-with-kelly-tenkely/; http://www.classroom-aid.com/blog/bid/55654/What-e-Teachers-are-following-Kelly-Tenkely-and-Michael-Gorman) In late 2011, I visited Anastasis Academy in Denver with two NBCS/SCIL colleagues. Kelly has over 8000 twitter followers for good reason! Matthew and Kelly set out to put their ideas into practice and started a new school in 2011 based around the notion of passion-based learning. The small academy that they lead is inspirational – none-the-least reason being that they have taken the risk of doing what they know works in education and stepping aside from the traditional and/or conservative assessment-driven approaches. And it clearly works!

Jeff Delp (@azjd; azjd.wordpress.com) – I have been reading Jeff’s Molehills Out of Mountains blog regularly, as well as following him on Twitter. Definitely one of the best benefits of attending a conference is the interaction and conversation between sessions. Aware that Jeff was a fellow attendee, I took the chance to meet up. What I have admired about Jeff in his blog is his honesty and willingness to embrace the challenges of leadership. I had exactly the same sense in meeting him. I look forward to one day visiting his school and watching the journey of educational transformation in active process, inspired by someone who knows what needs to happen and is prepared to lead the change.

David Price (@DavidPriceOBE; www.davidpriceblog.posterous.com) – another not-really-planned meeting of 2011. David came and visited us at NBCS/SCIL on the recommendation of others. What we met was someone who is passionate about education and a clear leader in helping shape the road ahead for many. I have been privileged this year to have had three different people visit NBCS/SCIL and write reflective blog posts on our work. That is invaluable. Prof John Hattie’s work highlights the significance of feedback to learning – and as adults, we learn in exactly the same way as students – that’s where feedback is so critical: (http://davidpriceblog.posterous.com/great-ideas-dont-cost-anything; http://davidpriceblog.posterous.com/whats-good-for-the-goose)
I love the work of Learning Futures (www.learningfutures.com). I love the fact that we can get to the same conclusions despite being around the other side of the world. I really look forward to some more conversation in 2012. Also http://www.musicalfutures.org/; https://sites.google.com/site/davidpriceorg/current-work/musicalfuturesgoesglobal

Karl Fisch (@karlfisch; http://www.youtube.com/user/karlfisch/featured) – just a very brief meeting with Karl, in between classes at his school. Having the opportunity to meet someone who thoughts and ideas have been watched over 4 million times in its different iterations (2.0, 3.0, 4.0) on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ILQrUrEWe8) was inevitably going to be great. It was. Thanks Karl for the conversation – and keep shaping our thoughts! Thanks for squeezing us in between classes too. Love that about the twitterocracy – generous as well with their time and passion.

Larry Rosenstock (http://www.innovativelearningconference.org/2011-speakers/83-larry-rosenstock; http://davidpriceblog.posterous.com/we-seek-engagement-larry-rosenstock-on-what-m; http://www.edutopia.org/high-tech-high-larry-rosenstock-video; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIlsNXaF0i4; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDcVXNUfwp0&feature=related; http://vimeo.com/10000408; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acjXN3jfmYI)
Lots of links here for Larry – but if you haven’t heard him speak, then you need to. I love it when conversations turn to the ‘cream’ of US schools, they will inevitably finish up with High Tech High – and for completely justifiable reasons. In 2011 I was lucky enough to coincide with Larry twice. Larry Rosenstock is the founder of the High Tech High schools in San Diego. The main problem with our first conversation (shared with Matt Spathas) was that it was so engaging, passionate and fun, that I ran out of time to walk around the different co-located schools. That was rectified during the second visit. I cannot believe the number of times when I have read or heard that when you talk about the ‘top of the chain’ innovative schools and inspirational educators in the US, and indeed the globe, it finishes up with Larry. He thoroughly deserves that accolade. The US just needs government policy to follow his lead!

Matt Spathas (@mspathas; http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/education/article_efb26800-9b2b-5d48-a38c-393af9c65bb5.html; http://www.sentre.com/bios/mspathas; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndPVek-xpLE) – I mentioned Matt in my previous blog. Matt is a San Diego based business entrepreneur. What I love about people like Matt is that their passion for learning is contagious – but he clearly understands networking and encouraging change at multiple levels. Educators have much they can learn from people like Matt. When someone from the business world and not directly in the classroom speaks on topics such as ‘Engaging, Empowering and Preparing all students for the 21st century classroom’ then we need to listen. Matt’s blog is well worth following. (www.ibrary.com).

Valerie Hannon (@innovation_unit; www.innovationunit.org; http://www.wise-qatar.org/ar/content/mrs-valerie-hannon; http://vimeo.com/12115825; http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/mar/29/pisa-international-education-systems-evidence-compare) Don’t you just love it when someone else has phrased something almost identically to you, even though you have never met. When Valerie spoke of the future of learning being about ‘base camps’ from which people will launch into personalized learning pathways, I instantly connected with my ‘base stations’ being the heart of new learning communities. The work and vision of the UK based Innovation Unit is inspirational – and their list of “clients” mind-blowing. What an incredible impact Valerie and her team are having on world education systems. Valerie’s explanation of the disjointed ‘s’ curve at WISE 2011 explains why every school administrator who is seeking to transform learning is stuck in this grey zone of old paradigm / new paradigm. (http://www.innovationunit.org/blog/201111/world-innovation-summit-education-2011-wise-global-take-innovating-education)

Riel Miller – I first came across Riel Miller when I read about his work with Xperidox and as one of the speakers at WISE. I was lucky enough to attend two sessions co-lead by Riel, but also to read his paper published through CSE on the end of schooling and the start of the learning intensive society. It was a predictive piece – but well worth the read. Riel is clearly a deep thinker and I think his understanding of what education might look like in 2025 very insightful. (http://www.urenio.org/futurreg/files/making_futures_work/Towards-a-Learning-Intensive-Society_The-Role-of-Futures-Literacy.pdf; ‘School’s Over: Learning Spaces in Europe in 2020: An Imagining Exercise on the Future of Learning’ http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC47412.pdf)

Tony Mackay (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zusz4LPPCRg; http://watch.thirteen.org/video/1966642668/; http://www.guardian.co.uk/innovation-education/speaker-tony-mckay) I have met Tony on a few occasions and ironically our paths coincided a few times in 2011. I have always been amazed by just how well connected Tony is – and how he is in someway connected with just about every influential educational body in Australia (ACARA, AITSL) – and also in the UK, as Chair of the Innovations Unit Board. I really enjoyed the sessions at WISE that Tony helped steer – and for his clear thinking in terms of change processes in education. Tony provides a great role model of being involved in shaping the pathway, not just observing. (http://www.wise-qatar.org/content/25-school-dead-long-live-school-centre-strategic-education)

Sofoklis Sotiriou (http://www.ellinogermaniki.gr/sotiriou/; http://gr.linkedin.com/pub/sofoklis-sotiriou/21/917/361; http://www.online-educa.com/profile-984) Sofoklis heads the research unit (http://ea.gr/ea/main.asp?id=600&lag=en) attached to Ellinogermaniki Agogi in Athens. Never one to miss an opportunity, Sofoklis was the driving force behind the ‘Never Waste a Crisis’ EDEN conference in October. Sofoklis also got me involved as a presenter at SCIENTIX in Brussels, even though as a non-European and non-science teacher, I could have been viewed as too left of field. Once again though, it was fantastic to network with a whole new group of educators and to also see once more a natural synergy of thought about the directions for education globally. As a side note for those who follow our work at SCIL (www.scil.com.au), the concept of a research unit attached to a school, as is the case with EA in Athens, influenced heavily the decision to start SCIL. Through Sofoklis I have been introduced to many educators from parts of Europe that I would not otherwise readily meet. I thoroughly recommend becoming familiar with the projects that are currently part of the focus of the team at Ellinogermaniki Agogi. The ‘science in a suitcase’ and ‘SciCafe’ programs are really great.

Greg Whitby (@gregwhitby; http://bluyonder.wordpress.com/; http://bluyonder.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/the-next-big-thing/; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHJ-YvBQCBk; http://www.youtube.com/user/gbwhitby/featured) In many ways Greg Whitby has provided a de facto education vision for NSW (and indeed Australia). While I can’t think of visionary comments or specific leadership from those charged with such portfolios state or federally, I do know that Greg has been leading the charge for change in the Catholic Education Office, through western Sydney and by influence around the world. I know that sometimes it is not easy being the advocate for change in NSW when there seems so little vision for change coming from the government or the DET. Greg was another visitor to SCIL in 2011 who honoured us with reflective blog posts and videos. (http://bluyonder.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/a-principals-perspective/; http://bluyonder.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/moving-forward-2/) Such reflection has helped shaped the direction that SCIL might grow. Thanks Greg!

Jens Guldbaek (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Jens/Guldbaek; https://sites.google.com/a/loop.bz/loop-en-2/about-loop;
http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/better-designs-that-lead-to-better-learning-20110225-1b8c7.html; http://www.oecd.org/document/55/0,3746,en_2649_35961311_47286711_1_1_1_1,00.html) I have twice had the privilege of spending a day with Danish architect, Jens Guldbaek. Jens designed the world renown Hellerup school in Copenhagen, along with many other similar projects. Educators need to find people like Jens who are one step removed from the classroom, as they can find some astute observation that can help shape our thinking about learning. Jens is a passionate architect – but he is also passionate about seeing learning opportunities enriched through good design. Jens owns LOOP – an experienced consultancy that looks at school and community design. I sense that creating well-designed learning and residential villages will be the future of schooling and community. Jens is a thought leader in this space.

Barrett Mosbacker (@bmosbacker; http://vimeo.com/bmosbacker; http://christianschooljournal.com/; https://bctc2012.wikispaces.com/Keynote+Address) I spent a day with Barrett in late May after the Vancouver Symposium. It was another of those times when you could just relax in the knowledge that here was yet another person who was on a similar journey – being an agent of educational transformation. Barrett is Superintendent of Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama. He also serves as adjunct professor at Covenant College where he teaches School Business Management in the graduate program. I found his reflective comments highly inspiring – and his blog is one of those that will always stimulate fresh thought. As school leaders we all share similar challenges and we need to keep the dialogue active so that noe of us ever feel alone in the process of shift in education.

Greg Bitgood (@gbitgood; http://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/the-christian-educator-podcast/id272836730; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd4xyE2g2Wc; http://www.christianthinker.org/; http://www.21stcenturyeducators.com/) 2011 wasn’t my first connection with BC-based Greg, but it was certainly another year of great opportunities to collaborate and share time at different events. In 2010 Greg spent a week observing SCIL at close quarters and provided very helpful commentary on our work. In many ways he started the journey where SCIL has been blessed with astute and insightful thinkers watching our work and then providing reflective feedback. Greg is superintendent of a suite of educational activities in Kelowna, based around Heritage Christian School – and in my mind would oversee probably the most effective online school operations anywhere in the world. I have learnt much from Greg as he has shaped niche online schools into a range of markets – providing fantastic educational opportunities for thousands of students. BC Online has created a highly effective strategy for sustainable and achievable online education – dividing up the roles of concept initiation, curriculum directions, visual enhancement, pedagogic pathways into multiple teams located all over British Columbia. Any school that is perplexed about how to start the foray into online learning and wants to learn from the master – contact Greg!

Ozgur Bolat (@ozgurbolat; http://tr.linkedin.com/pub/ozgur-bolat/8/414/203; http://www.wise-qatar.org/node/9824; http://yfrog.com/user/ozgurbolat/profile) – columnist at Hurriyet Newspaper, Researcher at the University of Cambridge and Bahcesehir University. I met Ozgur travelling together on the bus between the Hotel and the WISE Summit in Doha (http://www.wise-qatar.org/) and around the dinner table. I was fascinated by his own educational story – but ultimately impressed by his incredible sense of vision for education in Turkey. I have no doubts that he will rise in prominence there – perhaps even to Minister of Education! Ozgur has got me using Google Translate frequently as I seek to read his frequent newspaper columns. It is very inspiring to meet people from diverse locations all over the world – and to discover that we are all on the same educational pathway. I’m sure we are witnessing the beginnings of an educational ‘Arab Spring’, where from the grassroots, education and schooling will really start transforming into something far more relevant to the lives of children in the 21st century.

John Hattie (http://au.linkedin.com/pub/john-hattie/39/21/b22; http://leading-learning.blogspot.com/2009/01/making-learning-visible-john-hattie.html; http://www.slideshare.net/sozio/visible-learning; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SisXbT7CWWs&feature=related; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMSsH0jsfd4&feature=related)
I had the opportunity to spend an hour with Prof John Hattie in Melbourne in October this year. I knew I would enjoy the conversation as speaking with the person who lead the pivotal research project looking at effect sizes in teaching (http://www.teacherstoolbox.co.uk/T_effect_sizes.html), would inevitably be helpful. I was not disappointed. I think people like John Hattie are vital to the process of educational transformation as they help shape the journey, reflect on practice – but keep all ideas on a rational pathway. I include a mini version of the effect size table in as many conference presentations as I can, because it is important to recognize that educational change can be accelerated if we understand the importance of different components of practice. Thanks John for fitting me into your schedule back in October!

I hope I have not offended anyone by omission in this blog post – I can claim a level of distraction as I write it. I have been writing this blog post while on the move in Rwanda – in preparation for the [rw12] Innovate Rwanda summit we will be hosting in late May www.scil.com.au/rwanda. It proves the power of the new WiFi world when you can pick up and put down such a blog post as you write in what would have been some of the most inaccessible regions of the world, including the beautiful surrounds of the Volcanoes NP, home to the mountain gorillas. What has really amazed me is the aspiration for learning that the children in this region have – and that has in turn inspired an even greater sense that we have the power to do something to assist their journeys out of poverty through education.


  1. […] 2011 Lesson #8 – Knowing and growing the tribe: some amazing educators | Connected Principals 21st century learning – the best! Isn’t Twitter amazing! I have been in schools since 1978. But nothing has been like 2011, a real game-changing year for me, because I decided to take Twitter seriously. […]

    January 21, 2012

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