These LIPS are sealed

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Well, it’s been an interesting journey from around 2004 when the LIPS – Leaders in Public Schools concept kicked off as an email listserv which sought to emulate the sharing which had been seen on the NSW Primary Principals’ Association PASHN (Principals’ Association Self Help Network) which had been set up in Nov 2002. (Trove & iNet Online)

Along the way, a blog format was seen as a better way to go and the blog has been used to post all sorts of things which have hopefully been of use to educators and others along the way.

A healthy aspect of our ability to post ideas is that not everybody will agree, and it has been good sometimes to see some spirited exchanges of ideas in the comments and elsewhere.

Now, as we enter 2012, almost 10 years since the launch of PASHN, and after a number of roles within Public Education, and some of the evolution which occurs as a natural consequence of time, it seems a good time to draw this blog to a close.

You can still access it here, and I hope that you might still enjoy some of the posts.  I will continue to promote concepts like the need to move from ‘School Planning’ to ‘Planning School’ and certainly the efficacy of an approach which is ‘Tight, Loose, Tight.’

I’d also suggest that you look for some new ideas at the EDULEADER BLOG and in the news and updates section of HCCWEB2.ORG

If you’re interested in keeping track of what I’m up to you can also check out my main web portal page at PRYORCOMMITMENT.COM and follow the various links from there to writing and thoughts at PEBBLES IN THE POOL.

You can also follow me on Twitter or check out my profile on LinkedIN

But, for now, these LIPS are sealed.


Is this Mandatory?

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In a presentation recently, called, ‘Leading in a Connected World’ I was asked “Is this mandatory?”

Now, I assume, and clarified with the questioner, that this meant: “will we, as teachers, face any negative consequence if we don’t engage?” The answer was, of course: “No” But:

my response then went on to talk about the fact that, as teachers, we are seeking to engage learners in relevant environments which reflect the social context in which they exist and that, as such, we should at least acknowledge and endeavour to respond willingly, to the moral imperative of making our learning environments less like parallel universes.

You see, I’m also of an age similar to many of our, ahem, ‘chronologically gifted’ teachers. I’m 55 and began teaching in 1978 after trying a few other things. In my early career days, in the early eighties, I shared a flat with a woman who operated word processors for a major law firm. Then, as Apple 2e and other small machines began to enter the school space in the mid eighties, it became apparent to me that there would always be a growing relevance of the use of these technologies.

In the intervening years, like everybody, we have all grown relationships and families, commuted or not, worked second jobs and progressed in careers and generally rolled around in the tumble dryer of life.

Sorry, but it’s just disingenuous to suggest that all of this has suddenly exploded at a massive rate. And, I don’t accept the ‘lack of time’ excuse, or the assumption that some people must have a special gene or DNA structure which makes them better able to assimilate this into their practice. The fact that it’s never been ‘mandatory’ as opposed to being seen as a ‘moral imperative’ is probably where it sits. I’m not keen on making things mandatory, as I believe this just encourages more creative excuses for aversion.

It is, however, time to accept the moral imperative if, as we would all say: we’re here for the kids.

The moon and the stars

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Moon rising over the bay as the wind rips in from the nor-east: humming strong in the fronds of the pines along the beach where:

Down on the beach, as the last of the sun’s goldenness bathes the tops of the pines, two men exchange wisdom and words of great import: gesturing beside their fishing rods which stand as sentinels against the discovery of their real purpose.

Here we sit on the eve of a new year ahead.  There are some strong themes emerging:

  • Massively increasing amounts of parents who will begin to expect that schools provide communication, participation, and ecommerce possibilities.
  • Hugely increased awareness of the interoperability which exists once the cloud is fully utilised.  Along with this comes increased awareness of the value of tagging and the possibilities of the ‘semantic web.’
  • A continued imperative for change
  • A ‘push-back’ against some of the more ‘economic rationalist’ approaches to education and the re-emergence of the call for ‘play’ and ‘creativity: Let’s hope there are authentic practitioners around to help others make sense of this goal.
  • And there are many more: and they will change and evolve: rapidly.

For me, there are some key tools to embrace, or, continue to embrace.

Let’s never forget that our tactile ability to transcribe ideas to graphics and words,  and to script vision to action, and potentially: reality, is what drives us at that visceral level which, in the end, commits us to real outcomes.

Looking forward to a great year.

Crowdsourcing collegial creativity

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During the last few days of the school holidays, users of Yammer, which is being used as an enterprise level microblogging and social media environment within the NSW DET, were invited to take part in a collaborative creative activity using their mobile phone and their own ideas. A simple powerpoint file was uploaded to provide a standard environment of possibilities in terms of slide size, available fonts styles etc.
For this activity, participants simply created an additional slide and then resaved the file. The individual slides have then been uploaded as jpg files to Picasa, and the embed code for the resultant slideshow has been embedded below.

Just imagine the huge range of possibilities for collaboratively creating and sharing some great outcomes form our students and others within our schools.

Leading in a Connected World

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They have been busy weeks as the term draws to a close. Along with some end of Year 12 commitments, I’ve also had a couple of speaking gigs and opportunities to share ideas with other educators and thinkers.

A key part of all of these activities has been the place which our ability to connect and collaborate has taken. Last week, there was the chance to run a live twitter stream as an adjunct to our New Institute event which featured chef Stefano Manfredi. Via Twitter, a link was made with local radio who hosted Stefano on their afternoon show, and to other members of the Newcastle Twitterverse who took part in the event via Twitter.

We also had a lively discussion and sharing session between a number of great users of Moodle and blogs in classroom situations. It was wonderful to see a range of teachers at different points in their career actively learning from and with each other.

At the NSW Hospital Schools’ Association Conference on Friday it was good to share thoughts about the role we play in providing scaffolds and in seeking to find and assist the realisation of the great things which lie within our students.

This week, a trip down the F3 and the chance to share ideas in a presentation and panel discussion at Ignite 2010

Today was a presentation at the Hunter Central Coast Region Primary Leadership Conference at East Maitland.  To get some ideas together I approached my PLN, or Personal Learning Network.  As usual, they provided great ideas, links and more connections. I’ve edited the presentation and added one of my songs as a soundtrack and uploaded to YouTube.  Please feel free to post comments.

Paintings in an exhibition: change metaphors and a couple of views on leadership.

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A recent visit to the Art Gallery of NSW was, as always, an interesting few hours and a cause for reflection about how a number of themes come together in relation to change and the way we deal with it.  Most importantly, it set me thinking about some leadership behaviours.

Words in an instantly recognisable typeface provide a glimpse of familiarity in a sea of change. 

In this painting by Sali Herman, the Sydney Morning Herald masthead, from the 1940s, is juxtaposed with some freshly caught fish.  Sixty or more years separate freshness which will surely fade fast from an icon which persists. Change happens yet we always have the possibility to retain vestiges of the past.  This is how it should be.

In leadership, we must always remember that we are at any moment poised precariously between our past and our future. The immediate needs of a fresh catch, sit alongside the knowledge that there will be those trappings of our existence which will persist long past the time when some of the immediate intents of our endeavours have been consumed or rotted away.

Therefore, when reacting to emergent need, we should always try to retain a view which ‘looks both ways’ and which has a sense of desire to ensure that any icons which endure from this present do so because they represent a purpose which is still current and meaningful, years down the track.

Sometimes, the thought of the function and existence of the finished product leads us to forget, or discount the processes of creation.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge must have been a massive dominator of the Sydney skyline in the late 1920s: reaching out tentatively from both shores to finally nudge together way up above the ‘big smoke’ of the city and its bustling harbour.  Huge tracts of housing at both its Southern and Northern ends bulldozed to provide the approaches, and tunnels bored within the sandstone waited to feel the rush of air and the trundle of trains and trams.

The leadership of this massive project must have needed a huge team to manage the complexities of building something on such a vast scale and to promote a shared belief in the value of the intended outcome and of the need for care and precision in the building.  Huge arcs of steel, supported by cables anchored deep in the sandstone, eventually settling together, complete, high above the water.

It can be easy to think of great leadership as the qualities which enable a person to take large numbers with them as they move toward an objective which is seen to represent a national interest, or loyalty, or a grand endeavour.

Dominating one of the galleries at the NSW Art Gallery is a huge canvas by Edouard Detaille entitled ‘Vive l’empereur’ which depicts Hussars galloping in a full charge, bugles sounding, sabres swinging, toward the Russian lines in the battle of Friedland in 1806.

The notes posted beside this enormous painting point out that Detaille had set out to

“Recapture the appearance of the men of his period as they went to their death covered in gold braid.”

It is sobering to think through the psyche which led men to see themselves as taking part in a ritual of warriors, where manhood can be seen as a status symbolised by the willingness to rush headlong into battle for worthy causes: accepting the very real possibility of death as a consequence of honouring the traditions of gender, race, culture or religion.  A faith in the ‘righteousness’ of the need to win a battle was enough to circumvent the natural shrinking from those things which would otherwise seek to overwhelm us.

We should choose very carefully when it comes to selecting any pursuit where the need to ‘win’ becomes a significant justification for asking others to follow into places where there is danger and the possibility of very real risk.

There are those who still speak of ‘leading by example,’ of ‘not expecting anyone to do that which you are not prepared to do yourself.’ There are certainly times where this may be necessary but, as with language, behaviour and leadership: there will be times where it is better to ‘lead from behind’

Nelson Mandela says:  “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. “

Mandela had spent long afternoons herding cattle. His mother owned some cattle of her own, but there was a collective herd belonging to the village that he and other boys would look after. He then explained to me the rudiments of herding cattle.

“You know, when you want to get the cattle to move in a certain direction, you stand at the back with a stick, and then you get a few of the cleverer cattle to go to the front and move in the direction that you want them to go. The rest of the cattle follow the few more-energetic cattle in the front, but you are really guiding them from the back.”

He paused. “That is how a leader should do his work.” (Richard Stengel)

Clearly, there are challenges to face when it comes to changing leadership style to suit the context.  Our natural sense of who and what we are; of how we see ourselves from the inside out, will have an impact.

It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse. Adlai Stevenson

Drawing some of these threads together with, hopefully, some relevance for leaders in schools, maybe there are some key messages:

  • Within what we do there are some things which, while pressing and immediate now will be gone in time.  There are others which may seem now to only have a secondary function but which may still be there in decades to come: still recognisable and an icon of familiarity.  Within our work, try to maintain an awareness of not only the rearview mirror, but also the vast horizon of possibility in front.
  • We need to be clear about what we stand for and what it is that we believe would be a good possible future.
  • Large products do not come about overnight, but can be years in the planning and construction.  This requires leadership which builds teams and co-ordinates, provides feedback and in general keeps all committed to the intended outcomes.  Our work in building something new may mean that we have to leave some things behind.
  • Symbolic leadership, achieved with horn blasts and the smell of fear and the sound of thundering hooves, may be appropriate in certain circumstances, but must always be questionable when it is predicated on blind faith in ‘righteousness.’
  • While it can be hugely difficult to let go and sit back, there is a massive satisfaction to be had from ‘leading from behind.’

Please feel free to click up the top where it says Comments and add your thoughts.

Great post from Mark Pesce

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This reflection on the shifting ways that our ability, as humans, to connect and collaborate is well worth a read.  maybe you’d also like to see how it looks as a much expanded version of the reasons why we need to engage with the  ‘pram pushers.’

An excerpt from Mark Pesce’s blog: Education is freely available.  That is not in short supply.  What is in short supply – and always has been – is that moment of human contact, the connection which produces the transfer of insight, of skills, and understanding that won’t come from any webpage, however brilliant, or any podcast, however well-produced.

Students are connected as never before, but few of those connections lead to understanding.  This is the failure and the challenge of our generation.  It is a failure because we let the school grow up outside of the network, where we should have been binding the two together at every point.  It is our challenge because unless we do begin the hard work to knit these two together, we will see formal education become increasingly irrelevant in the presence of an ever-more-potent educational field.

Because the network is everywhere, the school is everywhere.  Because the school is everywhere, the hard-and-fast boundaries between school and the rest of life, as we live it in modern-day Australia, must collapse.  The idea that school is something that happens ‘over here’, while the rest of life is lived ‘over there’ doesn’t make sense anymore.  Given that the connections a child establishes from her earliest years persist throughout her lifetime, shouldn’t some of those connections – arguably, the second most important, after family – be to educators and educational resources?  These connections would become the core of the mentoring bond, which rises to work in partnership with the parental bond, a constant nurturing force throughout the passage into adulthood.

For a good read, have a look at Mark Pesce’s blog – The Human Network

In the meantime, isn’t it about time we moved from ‘School Planning’ to ‘Planning School?’

Quoting ideas

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Someone tweeted a link tonight to 100 quotes about innovation.  As I read through them, I picked out a few which seem to have make sense to me. After all, in the words of Anais Nin,

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

All of us are looking from the inside out.

Consciously challenging ourselves to examine our paradigms is critical if we are to look at new ways of doing things. We grow comfortable with what is, and moving on from it is sometimes akin to the final action of admitting that a favourite piece of clothing has had its day.  Do we try to buy a ‘genuine replacement,’ or do we look for a different way to achieve similar outcomes: be that comfort or statement or even utility. Mostly we want for that ‘different way’ to also add something to the experience we had before.

“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” – Albert Einstein

In large systems, the ability to move on, and not adopt different ways of achieving the same outcomes but to look at adding value to the experience depends on the capacity to imagine different futures.

“The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”Albert Einstein

Just how might we get engaged in  the business of ‘planning school?’ This is not about bulldozing and replacement.  We simply cannot afford that, and we are left with the challenge of modifying key systems and motivation while the wagons roll on.  How do we imagine that we can do this without some breadth in the way we devise our policy and the means by which we source our ideas.  It may take time and some room to move for patterns and the lines which create meaning to emerge.

“I’ve been doing a lot of abstract painting lately, extremely abstract. No brush, no paint, no canvas, I just think about it.” – Steven Wright

There are great ideas out there. And, there are lone nuts dancing.

“The man with a new idea is a crank – until the idea succeeds.”Mark Twain

We have great tools at our disposal to connect: with people and ideas. Our access to a metalanguage which can transcend the ‘localisation’ of culture, religion and nationalism provides the fabulous potential for ‘glocalisation,’ in which our ability to act both locally and globally is seen as an enormous adding of value to our horizon of possibility. As we connect using social media like Twitter, we see linkages form across town, across the state, the country and the world.  Projects spring up between teachers, discussion and debate takes place about what it is we do, and woven through the warp is the weft of bright ideas and willingness to follow each other laterally, providing a meaning and expression for the vertical warp.

Sometimes it can feel as though we are travelling up and down in the vertical elevator of bureaucracy: glum with the realisation that you can’t even get to certain floors without a swipe card. And then, sometimes, when the doors open and we see a corridor of connectedness to fresh ideas and helpful others, we are reminded that the up and down can only ever really have meaning and purpose when it serves as a means of getting people to the places they need to be to laterally grow.

Look around: there are countless opportunities to learn and to find things to excite our curiosity. We, as teachers, will often find that we find the best opportunities for learning by looking directly outward and around, not up; or down.

After we connect, there is then the power of our ability to collaborate.

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct arising from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves.” – Carl Jung

Given an atmosphere where it feels safe to do so, and where it is clear what is expected, people have a great capacity to innovate and, importantly, to improvise: working from what is at hand, creating solutions which provide glimpses of possible futures.  If we adopt a tight, loose, tight model within the way that we structure our learning environment we can create ways of doing things where there can be sufficient looseness to encourage the harnessing of a plethora of possibilities in demonstrating the outcomes of learning.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – General George Patton

Social media like Twitter and Yammer have clearly shown the vast store of creative capacity which exists within all of the people who work within education. Our huge challenge is to find ways which allow this creative capacity to be appropriately recognised and used productively, with benefit for all.

“After years of telling corporate citizens to ‘trust the system,’ many companies must relearn instead to trust their people – and encourage their people to use neglected creative capacities in order to tap the most potent economic stimulus of all: idea power.” – Rosabeth Moss Kanter

This is not just a challenge for the ‘companies,’ however.  It is a challenge for us all. New learning and the fresh application of things already known requires commitment and time.

You will never find the time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” – Charles Burton

Today, I was happy to learn something new about something I wanted to do better by noticing what someone else had done by accident and then learning, via a flurry of email, how the result was achieved. In the middle of this, new ideas took form to be added to the mix. Separated in the vertical elevator of age by at least 20 or more  years, we were able to get off at the same floor and walk away with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that we can both apply something new to the way we do things.

This is a good result.

Cockle Creek – Reflecting on change

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A graffiti tagged girder frames a reflection of the reality of a bygone line to other places.  Rusting piers, capped by grasses and an air of indignation,  thrust their reflection onto the slick green Limpopo look of Cockle Creek at Teralba. This was a grand new project: a line to the mines at Killingworth and West Wallsend.  It must have seemed like an optimism of the age; now a memory.  How much of the stuff that we engage with, in the belief that it is the stuff of sound planning for the future, may, in turn, become rusted grass topped piers in the creek?

The stories we can tell though: of best endeavour, or deceit, of human beings with all of their follies and fascinations, are the things which will inform us. There was a time where the creek was also a thoroughfare, then no more.

As things keep changing, as new bridges superimpose themselves on old, the importance of increasing the horizon of possibility for every child continues to assume a clarity which needs to be promoted as a simple and wonderful principle for what we do as educators within public schools.  That is what we do.

And the grass topped bridge?

We’ll cross that when we come to it.

(Pics taken on mobile phone en route from meeting at Speers Point to Barnsley via Teralba 25 May 2010)

Twitter: what’s it good for?

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Currently very excited by some of the links being made between a whole host of people.  Locally in Newcastle there’s a ‘diverse twitterverse’ with great potential for an innovative future. For anyone near enough, keep watching out for some amazing events coming up.

Planning for one of the events and trying to get some ideas, who better to ask than my ‘tweeps?’

Twitter: what’s it good for?

Within a very short space of time, here is what they said

BiancaH80 @pryorcommitment Free learning that is lively, engaging and fun! Constant support and a plethora of new ideas everyday. CCC :-)

MitchSquires @pryorcommitment Conversational learning that is relevant, interesting and really available at any level.
Mon, May 10 19:34:36 from TweetDeck in reply to pryorcommitment

k8tra @pryorcommitment learning and connections
Mon, May 10 19:34:43 from Tweetie in reply to pryorcommitment

MitchSquires @pryorcommitment Great connections that are invaluable to my class and me.

woojm @pryorcommitment constant inspiration and encouragement. plethora of new ideas every time you log in
Mon, May 10 19:42:35 from TweetDeck in reply to pryorcommitment

victeach @pryorcommitment opens my mind to professional learning not available in my school context and makes a big world smaller and more friendly.

alisa_williams @pryorcommitment twitter is immediate! No waiting on hold, no endless Google searches. You ask… your network AND the experts reply to you.

teachercolin @pryorcommitment Join the global conversation without barriers
Mon, May 10 19:45:47 from Twadget

siobhan_curran @pryorcommitment croudsourcing and immediacy
Mon, May 10 20:08:56 from Tweetie in reply to pryorcommitment

JSP2283 @pryorcommitment #twitter_what‘sitgoodfor : news, information links; encouragement; humour; diversion; venting;
Mon, May 10 20:13:20 from web

pipcleaves @pryorcommitment Twitter is connecting, collaborating and creating.
Mon, May 10 20:41:48 from TweetDeck

paulwils7 @pryorcommitment 24/7 Professional Learning FREE!!!! What more could you want???
Mon, May 10 20:55:45 from HootSuite in reply to pryorcommitment

growthwise @pryorcommitment benefit as gives you access to info to help build your business – the learning aspect
Mon, May 10 21:43:08 from TweetDeck in reply to pryorcommitment

growthwise @pryorcommitment Twitter is also a great way to stay connected to not only your client but also suppliers & the rest of the community
Mon, May 10 21:44:16 from TweetDeck in reply to pryorcommitment

growthwise @pryorcommitment it’s a forum to allow you to gather ideas & suggestions & a great tool to meet other like minded people
Mon, May 10 21:45:10 from TweetDeck in reply to pryorcommitment

jangreen31 @pryorcommitment resources, meanings, understandings. Synergy via CCC.
Mon, May 10 22:10:33 from web

jangreen31 @pryorcommitment Seems first tweet lost. Twitter great 4 modelling 21C leadership. Building, creating connections, school community, teacher

sandynay RT @jangreen31: @MCT_DG Twitter is a gr8 tool 4 modelling 21C leadership. CCC – school community, PLN, national/international. Create new…

jangreen31 @pryorcommitment teachers, PLNs, international/national opps 4 research and sharing. Its about CCC & synergy; personal & professional growth

And, last word from one of the ABC1233 crew from Newcastle

Twitter? what’s it good for?

carolduncan @pryorcommitment everything!
Mon, May 10 22:45:22 from HootSuite

Watch out for the New Institute, and the New Lunaticks

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