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  1. TeachMeet: Solve For x

    20 October 2016 by shartley

    Phillip taking a selfie before presenting. I'm the one waving up the back.

    Phillip taking a selfie before presenting.
    I’m the one waving up the back.

    * This blog post is also found at

    I have been to several TeachMeets.  This particular TeachMeet was held at Google headquarters in Sydney which was one of the main attractions for me.  I missed out on one two years earlier and as I searched for the Twitter hashtag for this evening I found an exchange that occurred about the use of #TMGoogle – the issue being that TeachMeets are supposed to be teacher ran and teachers as presenters, no sponsorship.  However, to host a TeachMeet in a cool location such as Google HQ there is a trade-off.  Tonight I felt the trade to be rather unequal.  The hashtag was not #TMGoogle but perhaps it should have been. It seemed every second speaker represented Google and was promoting something, useful somethings, but advertisements nevertheless. An extra grating factor was that teacher presenters were held to their time limits, albeit poorly, speakers not being deterred by soft Star Wars toys being thrown at them when their time had expired, yet Google presenters had limitless time.  And trust me, the teachers were much more interesting than the Google employees.

    The stated theme of this TeachMeet was ‘Solve for x’, thereby promoting problem solving in education, that students solve whatever issue ‘x’ represented for teachers and/or students. The evening was officially launched by Kimberley Sutton through a YouTube video to explain the concept: Moonshot Thinking: Solve for x @ Tribeca Film Festival. Our first teacher presenter linked a goal to this theme nicely.

    I have known Phillip Cooke through TeachMeets and Twitter for many years.  He is a passionate secondary school educator and declared this evening that his moonshot concept is teaching for life instead of for exams, a policy I am also passionate about.  I have enjoyed seeing Phillip present on this theme in many variations before. He is always interesting because not only does he and his colleagues come up with the ideas but they actually implement them, although I’m sure he wish he could implement more.  Phillip was intricately involved in the complete rebuild of his school, a school often seen in the industry as an alternative option for the misfits in our education system and thus had a poor reputation for a long time for drugs and disruptive behaviour. However, its hands-on practical approach to education is becoming more dominant in industry discourse and it has featured on a TV show for doing things a little differently.

    Phillip’s attitude towards authentic learning is borne out by some of the initiatives he has shared:

    • Establishing an annual Creative Careers Day where the future implications of their learning come to life through the people operating in creative enterprises
    • Implementing cross-curricular activities, such as Design and Technology with English and Drama to create wearable art costumes for a production of Othello, “Students didn’t just read Othello – they lived it
    • Printing art designs of students on tea towels and selling them, simple but effective (also make great thank you presents at Teach Meets)

    If I was to give my own moonshot for teaching and learning is that I desperately want students to be thinking for themselves. As a senior school teacher, I hate how much teaching is about preparing for HSC exams, such as artificial artifice that it diminishes authentic learning.  This is why I always like what Phillip has to say.

    Dominic Hearne set the tone of his talk by quoting Gary Stager, “Schools have a sacred obligation to introduce children to things they don’t yet know they love”. In line with this philosophy, Dominic’s school has introduced a series of compulsory critical thinking courses, which I absolutely applaud. These include:

    • Future Problem Solving
    • Visions of Leadership
    • The Art of War / The Ethics of Peace
    • Epistemology (how do we think, why do we think, what influences our thinking and perception)

    My daughter is currently studying International Relations and Human Rights at university. She would have loved the opportunity to examine some of these topics at school.  Her response being:


    One of the students undertaking this course used several sources to investigate the Jewish holocaust and, as might be expected, referred to movie representations of the holocaust such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. He also had access to his grandmother’s letters and other documents depicting her time as a Jew interned by Hitler.  The result was not just a well researched product but the rest of the class had a new insight into the atrocities.

    Nick Brierley hooked me by not only emphasising the thinking skill of problem solving but linking to the TV show Stranger Things, where the children in the show are constantly having to solve problems, not always successfully. He advocated the use of BreakoutEDU, a resource for creating engaging problem-solving games in classrooms. This is definitely a tool I will investigate further.

    Technology definitely has a role to play in developing students’ critical thinking skills. A primary school teacher, Alfina Jackson commenced with the statement that she hasn’t heard students say they need PD before they can use technology, so if they can do it, teachers can do it too.  Glib, but mostly true. I have come across many teachers who are so ingrained in teaching the same way, with the same worksheets, year after year, that they truly struggle with making more than the occasional change to their regular modus of operation.

    Alfina has her own YouTube Channel, mainly consisting of videos made by K-2 students.  These videos demonstrate learning in an authentic and meaningful way for our modern age.  Without many of us realising it, children are learning all the time through YouTube.  Actually many adults too.  I recently used YouTube to learn how to cast-off my knitting.  Alfina is therefore not only teaching students a particular topic, she is teaching digital responsibility.  Creating public videos also motivates students through the hands-on activity and real audience feedback.  All of this requires several higher-order thinking processes.

    Another initiative Alfino implemented was Year 1 completing book reviews on Google Slides. For the content, the teacher taught students to use three simple sentence word-starters:

    • I liked the part…
    • I disliked the part…
    • I would change…

    However, after a quick introduction to using Google Slides, the students worked out for themselves and taught each other the various creative features of using the slides.  After the first drafts were completed the teacher provided feedback through the comment feature which prompted students to comment on each other’s reviews, leading to a discussion of how to write positively, particularly in a public domain.

    On the other hand, I don’t believe technology should be used for simply its own sake.  Alfino showed how students learning to write could trace the letter on an iPad.  I’m not sure how this particularly improves on the pen and paper version except simply for the hook that it is on an iPad.

    The highlight of the evening was the dynamic Kathleen O’Rourke. Kathleen is learning to become a Primary School teacher at Macquarie University after a decade or so in the workforce. She is passionate about many things and her LinkedIn profile reveals she is not only an advocate for education and the marginalised but she walks the talk.  At first I thought she was also going to emphasise technology due to her tagline, “Is it OK to ask students to do something that we are not comfortable to do ourselves?” Instead, Kathleen answered that question with, “If we don’t pursue our x’s how can we expect our students to?”

    As part of being a pre-service teacher, Kathleen decided there wasn’t enough professional development on offer, beyond the regular uni courses and practicum experience so out together some events and now the concept has exploded.  As a full-time carer for her grandmother, Kathleen found it difficult to access working disabled toilets, particularly in medical institutions.  Consequently, she has an aim to develop an app that lists and user-rates them. I spoke to Kathleen at the end of the evening and found just how determined she is to put theory into action. Earlier that day she had been at a school presenting to teachers and discussing with them a university assignment. This was not part of the set work.  She has also tutored primary-aged students who are newly settled refugees on a volunteer basis.

    I was not the only one who thought Kathleen was amazing. This was the reaction on Twitter:

    screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-15-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-30-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-47-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-28-48-pm

    All in all it was worthwhile attending this TeachMeet.  I learned about some new Google products and enjoyed hearing how other teachers are implementing problem solving and other critical thinking activities.  However, I’d prefer it if future TeachMeets adhered to the no sponsorship ideal, even (especially?) if it means returning to the pubs and clubs where they began.

  2. 28 Minutes

    1 March 2015 by shartley

    I was keen when I started #28daysof writing, meaning I was to write for 28 minutes each of the 28 days of February.   I managed 16 posts during the month.  I plan to do the final 12 over this month but we will see how that goes.  The lack of daily posts was partly because I was genuinely too busy on some days but on other days it was just tiredness and exhaustion of, well, work and life.  Sometimes I can be obsessive about things and I wanted to be about #28daysofwriting but sanity prevailed.

    I was thinking about which 28 minutes of my particularly busy days would or could I give up.  It takes approximately 28 minutes for me to shower, dress and generally make myself presentable each morning.  I think that is necessary.

    I take about 28 minutes to drive to and from school each day (around 33 mins to school and 23 minutes to home).  I could try to obtain a job at a closer school.  My daughter goes to the closest school to my house and takes, yep, about 28 minutes to walk there.  I wouldn’t drive it.

    I generally arrive at school with about 28 minutes before the first class of the day to give myself time to gather my thoughts and equipment.  I’m on first period every day except Fridays.  I want to keep this time to ground myself each day.

    At the moment I spend approximately 28 minutes a day attempting to de-flea the dog with a fine-tooth comb.  That I would like to sacrifice for the greater good of blog posting., if only it didn’t leave my dog in discomfort and my house flooded with fleas.

    I also thought about all the other ambitions I have that could be covered with 28 minutes each day.  I want to read for pleasure, something I don’t do during term.  Is that more important than blogging?  Probably.  Possibly.

    I’d like to exercise each day, but currently that can’t involve being upright for long since I wrecked my feet at the start of the summer holidays with an overly enthusiastic start to an exercise regime.  Swimming involves a drive so that requires a commitment of over an hour, too much on a weekday during uni semester.

    I would like 28 minutes each day to sit down and do homework with my 15 year old son.  We have committed an hour to this on Tuesdays so the pressure isn’t too much on either of us.

    I’d like to cook more healthy food for dinner each night but while I’m at uni I leave the cooking to my husband which while is quite good, would benefit from more vegetables.

    I’d like to be more in touch with family and friends.  I haven’t talked to my Mum for a few weeks now and yesterday my nephew turned 8 years old and I haven’t sent him anything or even called.

    If I was a lady of leisure I would play the piano regularly and perhaps go back to do the 4th grade exam I should have done when I was about 13 years old.

    I used to be able to survive on 4-5 hours sleep regularly.  In my first year of teaching this was extremely common.  I sometimes do it now but it only lasts a few days.  I average about 6 hours sleep but probably should have 7.  I resent sleep because of the time it sucks away.

    I watch a lot of TV.  It plays two distinctly different roles for my obsessive nature.  In simple terms it can be an obsession in itself.  I have stayed up late this weekend to catch-up on American Idol which I didn’t know was on until Friday evening when I scanned Apple TV (through 10Play).  I like American Idol because of the driven nature and talent of the contestants and the current judges.  I have been a fan of Harry Connick Jnr for a long time too.  The other role TV serves for me is as a distractor from being obsessive about my work.  I often become overly wrought about planning the perfect lesson or finding the right resources or putting together an awesome program and finessing the uploading to Weebly, Google Classroom or whatever electronic tool(s) I’m using.  TV distracts me from the stress of it all so I plod away instead of engrossing myself in it, tying my stomach into knots.

    Well, there we go, the end of 28 minutes and I end with a confession to obsession.  The confession to liking American Idol is probably a bigger concern though.  I want a lot of things in life and I can’t have them all.  I better live a long time though so I can at least try.

  3. The journey to New York

    10 July 2014 by shartley

    HotelRoom (800x600)

    I suppose the journey to New York started a year ago.  A group of us at school were writing an extensive report for the Principal about ‘ICT and Active Learning’ and we thought, why do all this work just for the eyes of the Principal, let’s leverage our research into other fields.  So we did.  We applied for two academic conferences by submitting abstracts of work we hadn’t written yet and managed to secure both of them.  One was in Seville last November, which was the subject of my last post, and the other is next week, The Learner’s 21st International Conference on Learning, in New York.

    As my flight out of Sydney took off I had an exhilarating view of Sydney Harbour, like I’ve never experienced before.  The plane tipped and arced the rim of the harbour on the inner side of the bridge, my right hand side window seat providing the perfect view.  I felt like it was a good omen and it turned my nervousness into a positive vibe.  A few hours later I pulled my laptop out of the overhead locker and worked on the paper and structured the presentation.  It was the first time I had felt good about the writing and confident that it would be a success.  I was smiling inside and out.  It also helped that there was a spare seat between me and a man on the aisle.  Appropriately, I was reading Quiet by Susan Cain, because for the entire journey to Los Angeles we didn’t speak.  When he went to the bathroom, I also went, so to not disturb his sleep or movie.  However, when we landed we started a conversation, and lo and behold, we have a mutual friend who works in the office next to him at Sydney University.  Small world.  As for the book, there are some elements that really resonate with me but other parts irritate because it is quite against collaboration in schools.  It isn’t extreme but  it isn’t balanced either, which is understandable given the nature of the book but I’m all about balancing approaches to teaching and learning in schools.  Perhaps the book will be a topic of another post.  Nah, who am I kidding, I won’t have time to do that!

    My luck continued.  We were the first flight to land for the day at LA so moving through customs was a breeze.  There was also a spare seat between my window seat and the passenger on the aisle for the next leg of the trip.  I was determined to mark a set of assessment tasks on this leg and though I struggled to stay awake until I finished, I did, probably thanks to a revolting Ice Coffee from Starbucks at LAX, and managed a 40 minute nap towards the end of the trip.  Again I was in luck when we flew over the spectacular Grand Canyon.  It was definitely worth the $25 I paid to ensure I had a window seat for the flight.  My luck dissipated slightly upon landing at JFK with an hour wait for luggage.

    I’m staying at the Library Hotel which is gorgeous.  I’m in room 603, themed Management (600.003 in the Dewey system).  It is small but full of Management books, one of which I used in my last uni course.  See the photo above for an idea of the room.  I was too diligent at turning off my phone for the flight so sorry, no photos of the great natural wonders of the world.  Unpack, shower, room service and six hours sleep brings me to the next morning and looking forward to an eventful day.  I’ll fill you in on the other end.

  4. ICERI 2013

    2 December 2013 by shartley

    ICERI A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to attend, present and chair at the International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI) in Seville, Spain (18-20 November 2013).  This came about due to the comprehensive research completed by a group of us at school, upon the request of our principal, into ‘ICT and Active Learning’.  The investigation involved visiting a variety of innovative schools, surveying our own community and secondary research.  The report ended up being 60 pages long and has resulted in the implementation of REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning), a concentrated effort for a paradigm shift to more student-centred learning in a Year 7 pilot program for 2014.  Since we had already completed the research we wrote a couple of different abstracts to apply to present at international conferences and were surprised to be accepted by both.  The school is paying for the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) to attend the International Conference on Learning in New York, July 2014, so couldn’t send us to the ICERI one too.  I therefore asked for leave and attended under my own steam (except for accommodation).  I also gained permission to add a couple of days in Paris to visit my 16 year old daughter on school exchange there.  From lift-off to landing I was gone for a total of 9 days, only absent (in body) from school for 5 of them.

    So why would I go to so much expense, effort and jet lag to be at ICERI 2013?  Put simply, the experience.

    For the first time I’ve had an academic conference paper published (with my two colleagues, Melissa Carson and Nick Cook).  Although it’s not the level of a peer-reviewed journal, it’s still something.  It had to be submitted back in October; I wrote it during the school holidays, heavily based on our report for the principal.

    For the first time I’ve presented at an international conference.  I was the first to present during my session, forgot to mention a couple of key points, but generally thought it went well.  We were asked to use either Adobe Acrobat (pdf) or PowerPoint for our presentations.  I was quite pleased with my slides, prepared the day before I left and I wrote what I said during the flight over.  I was asked which I thought should come first, the pedagogy or the technology, and I replied quite definitely, the pedagogy, but what I’ve read since has made me question my decisiveness a little.

    For the first time ever (beyond the classroom) I’ve chaired a session of presentations.  This meant I had to introduce each of the presenters with a supplied biography, pronounce their names as correctly as I could, and ensure they adhered to the tight time regulations.  The duo that followed me were speaking for a couple of minutes before I remembered I had to time them but I recovered and nobody knew.  The next presenter was so nervous that I concentrated too much on calming and preparing her that I forgot to introduce her.  She ran out of time so I concluded with a comment about how fast the time slips away when up front that I also forgot to introduce her and did it then, at the end of her talk.  From then on I was much better and even managed to gain a laugh with my comments about the last speaker’s presentation.

    Of course there is the added benefit of the credibility it provides to me and my school.

    Unlike the various school conferences I’ve attended, this conference was wholly based on academic research.  Each presentation went for 15 minutes and I attended approximately 50 of them on a wide range of topics.  Some were highly technical analysis of statistics that bored me but then I was often surprised by the interest some audience members displayed in the following Q&A.  Most presentations had something that fascinated me.

    By theme the sessions I attended were:


    The highlights for me were Morten Fahlvik (@Fahlvik) speaking about blended learning, Ruth Bridgstock (@RuthBridgstock) speaking about educating for digital futures, Alex Tyman presenting on perceptions of leadership and the presenters in my session who had researched teachers’ responses to the introduction of or increase in ICT usage in classrooms.

    Some of the issues that had me thinking include:

    • technology increasing the income gap and the lack of ICT adding to the poverty cycle
    • pedagogy being taken hostage by the tools
    • ‘massification’ resulting in the requirement of large halls; personalisation resulting in the requirement of smaller learning spaces; and ‘interactive classes’ requiring convertible settings
    • parallels between digital media professionals and teachers networking through PLNs on Twitter and TeachMeets
    • how we keep judging leaders against our prototypes (men, tall, suits, aggressive, etc) instead of what we say leadership should be about (consultative, caring, diplomatic, etc)
    • a study of US songs have had a recent exponential rise in use of the words ‘me’, ‘myself’ and ‘I’ in lyrics
    • how students condemn cheating but justify their own cheating but also how this has been researched with many underlying assumptions (eg what actually constitutes ‘cheating’)
    • how to assess social and ethical behaviour/attitudes
    • the language used in relation to shifting teaching styles should not be “make them”
    • focusing more on students’ competencies than knowledge


    The other important aspect of the conference was simply talking with other earnest educators, the vast majority being from universities around the world.

    Before the conference, I had already connected with @davidwebster (David Webster – University of Gloucestershire) via Twitter through the hash-tag #iceri2013 and found each other in person during the first break.

    At the first day’s lunch I sat next to Tony Scafide of SUNY Oneonta (USA) and we talked intensely all lunch and throughout the cocktail party the following night about life, the universe and everything.

    On the second day I lunched with Ruth Bridgstock (QUT) and Margaret Mackay (University of Portsmouth) and we discussed how people learn and how to motivate students and teachers to want to learn (without finding definitive answers).

    It was truly an international conference.  In my session alone the presenters were from Norway, Nigeria, Israel, Poland and Turkey.  But I must say, for a conference about innovation in learning, Twitter was rather quiet.

    Overall, despite the rotten cold I had the entire time I was away (and still), it was the conversations with intelligent and passionate people in education that will stay with me the longest.  It motivates me to continue with my study, my teaching and my interest in student-centred learning.  Somebody described me as a border collie, meaning I’m the one who rounds everyone up, gathering them in to try and face them in the right direction.  I think that is a pretty good summary and a conference like this will keep the wag in my tail a little bit longer.

  5. Cabin Fever Ramblings

    26 June 2013 by shartley


    I’m fond of looking at my life from the perspective of an alien on a fact finding mission on the behaviour of Earthlings.  This concept served me well in a Year 12 English assignment that a good friend continues to cite as the moment she knew I should be a writer.

    More than 20 years later and I have written little, in the literary sense anyway.  If an alien had been observing me the last few days it would think I was a sloth, moving only from bed to toilet to kitchen to couch repeatedly.  The toilet visits are quite frequent due to the copious cups of tea and glasses of mountain stream water, delicious straight from the kitchen tap in my holiday cabin.  However, the kitchen visits are also for the naughties I bought for this stay the tiny town of Talbingo.  I consumed half a family-sized packet of lollies the first day and half a packet of Mint Slice biscuits the second, the remainder being consumed by my husband and children who actually earned the calories by skiing each morning at the Selwyn Snowfields while I stayed holed up in our cabin.


    My alien watcher would see me flit from phone to book to papers in what may seem a fruitless shuffle.  There is no phone coverage from Optus in Talbingo so I can’t text but through the magic of a wifi dongle I still connect around the globe, even to my dear Twitter friends attending the enormous International Society for Technology in Education Conference in San Antonio, USA.  Other Twitter friends attended a TeachMeet in my home town, Sydney, last night but the commute was too far from here for me to attend.  As they went to a TeachEat afterwards, my family and I walked to the Talbingo Lodge for the All You Can Eat Pizza Night, which was surprisingly pleasant, helped by a bottle of red wine.

    The Talbingo Lodge had been locked up for about a year, looking for someone to love and care for her.  Three months ago a new owner came along, a regular holiday maker in Talbingo, originating from Cootamundra where he has a similar establishment.  Perhaps I should interview the owner, for a general piece of writing, or for a Business Studies case study for my class or for an EdAssist article.  The Talbingo joint is eclectic with various paraphernalia stuck around, like caps and hats hanging above the bar, skis and golf clubs stuck on walls and ceiling, a games room for the kids, including an X Box with a car racing game which won my son over.  He played against a kid he’d never met before.  The Mum approached my thirteen year old to explain the loud competitive eight year old boy was autistic and my son volunteered that it was fine by him because he was autistic too.  The owner was concerned about the loud behaviour of my son’s new friend because people were trying to watch the rugby.  Well, sort of.  It wasn’t a big deal of a game.  That’s tonight.  We’re returning to the Talbingo Lodge tonight for the Stage of Origin, booked our now favourite table, by the fire, in front of the large TV screen.


    So here I am, having completed the essential marking of 45 Society and Culture essays in two days, giving myself a reprieve before I tackle the less essential marking.  I’m reading ‘The Office’ by Gideon Haigh and it could be describing me as it provides the history of clerks working irregular hours, fitting in their own writing as much as possible a la Dickens.  Except I seem to do a lot of thinking about writing but not much writing in itself.  I completed a Masters of Arts recently, majoring in writing and literature and discovered I had a gift for script writing (thanks Deakin for the HD).  Unfortunately for my students I’m also excellent at Editing, another HD subject.  I have a couple of scant plots mapped out for scripts but I just can’t seem to find the oomph to dedicate some real slabs of time at it.

    Instead I tend to focus on the here and now, so I end up immersing myself in all things related to school.  This year I am teaching six subjects and am on the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) which is currently constructing a report about the future direction of pedagogy and technology in the school.  The ILT is saving me from being downtrodden by my numerous classes – I’ve never had so many before.  Plus I’ve stepped down from management positions to start afresh at a new school so I’m not used to facing so many students in recent times.  It’s a hard slog!  I’m constantly being encouraged to keep being innovative and try new things in my classroom by two of my four superiors.  One of the others is remote and simply trusts me and another prefers old school, but that’s OK because I just balance traditional with my ‘keeping it real’ style in Business Studies anyway.

    I have volunteered to speak for 7 minutes at a TeachMeet in a month’s time on Chaos Theory, planning for it to be about my Year 10 Geography class where I have a class of 30 boys, most being quite boisterous in nature.  This class was noisy when they were arranged in rows and given traditional worksheet learning so now I conduct it more like Project Based Learning (PBL) and it’s slightly louder.  Less evidence of learning is being produced and they probably won’t perform as well in an exam as the other classes but I believe they understood the concepts much better as a result of the PBL style.


    The ILT is grabbing my real passion as I like to push students to achieving their best but not in the traditional sense of scoring well in exams.  Since I have a broader goal for students I am a bit of a trumpeter for changing the ways of teaching.  However, I am about balance, having just left a school that was going too far in the one direction, in my not so humble opinion.  Two aims I have just jotted down in my steadfast companion of a notebook are probably not achievable in the near future but I think, wouldn’t it be great if I could help students to map out their own educational path, mentor and guide them, plus help each student create a portfolio of their achievements.  I’ve only looked at a couple of online programs that would do that but they didn’t tickle my fancy.

    One of the other activities I have flitted about on is consideration for my son’s education.  He attends that school where I previously taught and I’m trying to conceive a plan for him to fit into the school, achieve traditionally set school goals and achieve some goals of our own.  Today I emailed a reply to his Case Manager (due to his autism) about a meeting for next term.  I’m hoping to present a mildly radical plan of action for the rest of the year, involving dropping Art and arranging self-directed project time for him instead which he would need to report in the form of Tumblr or the like.

    So here I am, having just spewed out 1000 words in what should be organised into several different pieces of writing.  I’ll let this sit for a while and return to it later.  Perhaps this afternoon, perhaps tomorrow, we’ll see.  I am a procrastinator.  And besides, it’s time for food and a cup of tea.

    [I ended up being distracted by the Rudd/Gillard PM leadership battle and the Texas filibuster so nothing productive occurred this afternoon]

  6. Proud Nerd

    27 May 2013 by shartley

    I have just had one of the most nerdy and fun weeks of my life.

    Over the last seven days I have been to two events at the Sydney Writers Festival (Nick Earls and Sarah Turnbull) and have thus had the creative writing part of my brain sparked.

    I have toured six schools this week (Pymble Ladies College, Coburg Senior High School, Brighton Grammar School, Glen Waverley Secondary College, Tintern and Lilydale High School) and consequently enjoyed deep discussions with other passionate educators about trying to find the best way to provide the most conducive environment for learning and what exactly learning entails.  Some schools did a PR job whereas others were genuine and honest about their failures as much as their successes.  A particular shout-out to Katherine Hart and Wendy Linnett who are on Twitter.

    I was touring Melbourne schools with three of my Oakhill College colleagues.  Whenever we sat down for a meal we shared our hopes and plans for the future strategic direction of our school.  It was such a blast to talk in such a meaningful and deep way, finding our educational philosophies extremely aligned and excited about possible new directions.

    On my return to Sydney on Saturday I went straight from the airport to meet with Geoff Riley from Eton College and co-founder of tutor2u.  For another couple of hours I was immersed in the language of innovation and education. It was very cool.

    I took copious notes during our school visits, and of some of our informal discussions, and have enjoyed starting to organise these jumbled notes into a coherent report.  This is now in a GoogleDoc where my colleagues are also contributing to the process over this weekend.

    The following is just some of the educational concepts that I hold to be important.

    General educational philosophy:

    Schools should be a thriving community focused on learning in a modern world.

    Under the Board of Studies NSW the end goal is for students to maximise their marks in the HSC.  This is an important aspect of schools and the learning process but it is not a singular goal.

    I am proud to be part of a school that strives to be a caring and respectful community where achievement is valued.  I want my students to learn their place in the world and contribute to it in a positive and meaningful way by being the best they can be, sound in character and active in society.

    To be able to participate in a meaningful and positive way in society students need to develop skills in problem solving, communicating and collaborating.  They also need to be resilient for when the world is tough and unfair.

    Schools can no longer be insular.  Classes can no longer operate in isolation.  The world is becoming increasingly globalised, connected and informed through technology.  Schools must be a part of this modern world.

    Physical Spaces of Schools

    Classrooms should have sliding glass doors to communal open spaces, preferably indoors with flexible seating arrangements to allow collaborative learning to occur naturally.  Classrooms need to be resourced to allow a range of pedagogical practices including having desks on wheels to make changes easy.  Glen Waverley Secondary College had the best example of what I visualise as ideal but also saw some good little nooks at Tintern.

    Geln Waverley Open Space (1)

    Geln Waverley Open Space (1)

    Glen Waverley (2)

    Glen Waverley (2)

    Tintern A/V Space

    Tintern A/V Space

    Tintern Collaborative Communal Space

    Tintern Collaborative Communal Space

    I also think a Café provides a good atmosphere on many different levels.


    Number one priority is to have the infrastructure working reliably for everyone.  Wifi needs to be fast and consistent.  Students need access 1:1 to computer devices with long lasting battery life.  My personal preference at the moment is for Year 7-10 to have iPads and Years 11-12 to operate in a BYOD system.


    It took me about three years to be able to pronounce the word ‘pedagogy’ and another three years to be comfortable using it.

    • School vision needs to align with reality – a combination of reward, compensation and benchmark standards is required to align staff with vision
    • It is important for a pedagogical shift to be advocated and modelled by senior leadership so there is one message
    • There also has to be a sense of working alongside staff to help negotiate the change
    • Focus should be on learning instead of schooling
    • Learning should be student centred with less emphasis on the teacher up front delivering content (dot-point driven)
    • Students need to be actively learning big concepts
    • There should be authentic learning as opposed to textbook knowledge, going beyond knowledge and understanding – students need to:
      • THINK (problem solve, analyse, evaluate, etc)
      • collaborate
      • create
      • innovate
      • empathise
      • actively support and promote social justice
      • be flexible
      • “Work with the living, not the dead” – tap into the enthusiastic teachers and to an extent a movement will occur.

    I’m so excited about the future and being part of a transitional process at my school. Hopefully through our wonderful team we can help shape a strategic plan for a future where learning is the focus of everything we do, balancing all the educational aims and needs we hold to be true.


  7. The Vinyl Edge

    24 January 2013 by shartley

    Pete and Ryan (The Vinyl Edge)

    The Vinyl Edge, Hornsby Inn, 21 November 2012

    Ever since Westfield overhauled Hornsby’s Shopping Mall with quality restaurants such as Blu Water Grill and an array of modern shops like David Jones, it has become a much more enticing place to visit.  However, the Hornsby Inn has stayed steadfastly the same.  An advertisement within the Hornsby Inn for karaoke night has the silhouette of a naked woman about to stuff the microphone down her opened mouth, head thrown back.  The exposed brick is not retro chic, it has been there for decades and looks it.  Dodgy cartoons adorn the room as if they’re art.

    But on Wednesday it’s time for Open Mic Night and once in a while a gem comes along.  The Vinyl Edge performs songs from the 1960s and 1970s originally made famous by Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Credence Clearwater Revival and many, many more.  Tonight they played in honour of Carolyn’s birthday, entertaining a small crowd of 30 with a tight and polished set with the quality and passion the Hornsby Inn does not normally provide.  Carolyn chose the play list which just had to include Neil Diamond’s classic ‘Sweet Caroline’ now known by a new generation courtesy of Glee.

    Carolyn is the wife of the lead singer, Ryan.  Ryan is a Drama Teacher by day but at night he morphs into a rock star.  He provides the repartee between sets, he writes the blog posts between gigs and has years of professional experience singing across a number of countries.  It is rumoured he has performed with The Wiggles.

    Lead guitarist is Pete.  He manages a science laboratory by day but at night the glasses come off as he creates music via the tips of his fingers and vibrates it through your entire body.  He is the heart of the outfit with his love for the music he plays evident in every gesture and a boyish grin belying the fact he lived through the era of the music they play.

    Yosip provides the feet that keep The Vinyl Edge grounded in the depth of his dulcet bass tones.  This evening this career train driver relished the smooth feel of a brand new beast of bass in his hands and joyously led the singing in the Beatles’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.  His gentle nature added a personal touch to the song.

    The drummer, Dave, wasn’t even born when the songs played by The Vinyl Edge were composed.  His hands, gifted and toughened with the skills of a carpenter by day, manipulate the drum sticks at night.  His fresh and innocent face belies the dirty beat that throbs and thrives through his small frame and his enthusiasm for ‘Wild Thing’ might reveal an otherwise hidden wicked streak.  Dave is the spine holding the body together.

    The energy exuded by The Vinyl Edge was contagious as Pete and Ryan jumped around the stage to ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ and ‘Rebel Rebel’, demonstrating great camaraderie throughout the night.  All songs paid homage to the original artists with a harsh critic in the audience exclaiming with respect, “Not one song ruined!”

    Closing with ‘Comfortably Numb’, the Hornsby Inn regulars were also numb from their alcoholic excesses but those who had come to celebrate Carolyn’s birthday left with happy rhythmic hearts from the good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll.  Although the music comes from an earlier era, The Vinyl Edge has a sound that does the new and improved Hornsby proud.

  8. The PPP Policy Proposal

    28 May 2011 by shartley

    final exam

    The PPP Policy Proposal: A proposal to improve HSC assessment by introducing externally marked Projects, Portfolios or Performances for all subjects

    For my very last subject in my Masters of Arts (Writing and Literature) I chose to break away from the creative writing courses (fiction and non-fiction) and study Public Policy Analysis.  I teach Economics and thought it would be relevant in that regard.  There is much about the course I haven’t liked but the assessments themselves have been thought provoking.  My last assignment (ever?) is to write a 3000 word policy proposal in a prescribed format.  After some discussion on Twitter I settled on reducing the reliance on exams for HSC assessment, partly due to inspiration provided by @cpaterso.  I have now completed The PPP Policy Proposal (pdf file – don’t want to fuss with style conversion from Word to Blog).  Enjoy!


    (1) There is a little political hyperbole within this policy proposal

    (2) It is within the constraints of a university assignment.  Eg Convenor wanted only one paragraph in the Evaluation section and limited to 3000 words in total (I took this to mean not including the Reference List and Appendices)

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