Questions, questions and more questions….

At the school of which I am privileged to be Principal, a strong objective is for our students to become ‘self-directed learners’ through the provision of personalised learning. The eLearning Plan, developed in June of 2011, clearly articulates this with its overall objective of enabling learning opportunities which:

·         provide students with greater autonomy and choice of

o   subject matter

o   learning methods and

o   pace of study.

·         involve students in more decision‐making processes.

·         require extensive use of digital technologies.

·         result in memorable experiences where students ‘learn by doing’ with relevance to the real world. 


To ensure our commitment to the eLearning Plan is authentic, the College will implement two initiatives in 2013. They are:

1.      For Year 7, an inquiry based approach to cross curricular projects which result in richer, deeper learning; and,

2.      For Year 11 SOR, a blended approach to learning which results in acceleration of the cohort to sit the HSC at the end of Year 11.

These initiatives will need to be supported with:

1.      A group of teachers who are flexible, innovative and understand their role as one of coach and facilitator;

2.      Student centred pedagogy within a guided inquiry framework;

3.      Access to a reliable Learning Management System; and,

4.      Effective and efficient timetabling.


This term of preparation for Connected Learning in 2013, needs to be one that poses as many questions as we do have answers. With an inquiry mindset I have asked those inspirational educators involved, the following questions…



Yes, we do need to have programs at the end of this term; however, some questions about that.

1.      How detailed do those programs need to be?

2.      Do they need to follow the same current format?

3.      By adopting an inquiry/project based framework how thorough can our programs be when we wish for student to frame their own questions?



          Are you called teachers? Facilitators? Risk Takers or Experimentalists? 

          Is your primary role to be ‘guardians of knowledge’ or ‘facilitators of curiosity’? 



There needs to be an understanding of the impact of Learning Space on Learning. This may the focus for one of the days. 

          What is the Learning Centre Called?

          What is the Connected Learning program called?

          How do we ‘title’ the space and the program? Is it “Explore” in the ‘Stadium’?  Is it, “Challenge” in the ‘Coliseum/Colosseum’? A little bit too gladiatorial?




          Is there a “Learning to Learn” aspect to Assessment?

          How can we provide the conditions to enable students to engage in develop richer learning which creates links across KLAs?

          How do we ‘break down’ the siloed approached to secondary learning?

          Do we need exams? Half-Yearly, End-of-Year exams?


WEB 2.0

          Are blogs, online chats and other collaborative Web 2.0 possibilities a part of the project?

          If so, can you be expected to blog?



13 thoughts on “Questions, questions and more questions….

  1. Hi Greg, you have some great ideas. There is so much value in student-centred learning. I don’t think I would ever want to revert to a teacher-centric model. With regard to the titles, I don’t think it really matters if you are going to a true student-centred model. The title "teacher" is perfectly acceptable. It is the role of the teacher that is far more important than the title. I love your description of "facilitator of curiosity".One of the most important components of your programs will be the evaluation sections. Even though I think I might have some good programs in place, I always look for ways to improve or experiment. As each teacher navigates their way through the new programs, they should be able to provide some quality reflection and evaluation of their experience and that of their students. This is invaluable when you are striving to provide excellence through constant improvement.I think Collosseum is way to formal a name for a learning space unless of course the driving force for the inquiry-based learning has strong ancient historical impetus. I prefer the idea of infoal learning occurring almost incidentally in a "Learning pad" with "pad" having many meanings that can be conjured up to fit the moment.I’m not in favour of formal examination assessment. I would much prefer a gamified structure for the learning whereby the students earn awards as they gain experience and level up to demonstrate an "assessable" merit of their learning. This provides great access to differentiated learning, peer support learning and doesn’t hold back students from progressing beyond "A-grade" status if their passion can be ignited to a mastery of the knowledge and skills acquired,Finally, I love the use of web2ools for collaborative connected learning. Blogs & websites (wee my/wix) provide great ePortfolios. Edmonds allows students to collaborate and receive badge awards to allow qualitative ongoing formative assessment.

  2. Auto-correct on my iPhone created some typos.Notably1- Weebly as a website based ePortfolio.2- Edmodo for Collaborative Connected Learning.I hope the previous comments are helpful for you.LD

  3. Hi Greg,This is exciting stuff – so much to discuss. Can I suggest some writings to investigate that support what you are engaging in:- Tony Wagner’s work – Global Achievement Gap & Creating Innovators – check out his TED talk & others talks on You Tube.- Peter Kreeft’s – Making Choices- Kevin Vost – Unearthing Your Ten Talents- Great link re Inquiry Models – really requires a face to face conversation & discussion over a couple of drinks as there is so much more. I hope this is of some use. Keep up the exciting work!Regards, David

  4. I wish this type of teaching and learning was happening when I was a student. (although not so sure when I was a teacher!). Actually, reflecting on that, is it odd that I would respond differently to the same format of teaching/learning as a learner and a teacher.Love Liam’s idea of ‘gamified structure’ and levelling-up – fantastic for the competitive students and perhaps a driver to ‘do more, find out more, read more, learn more’. What questions would I have? Probably no surprise that my questions would be based around logistics: timetabling, sharing work between staff, reporting. Also, very importantly, how would you ‘sell’ the Connected Learning program to your buyers (parents/students) – until it becomes a part of the culture of the College you might need to do a bit of a ‘hard-sell’.

  5. I don’t think there’s a need to rename roles and learning spaces. Kids know what they are, and a fancy name isn’t going to change anything. What teachers do in those learning spaces is what matters. Having just completed a pretty successful PBL task, what mattered most for the teachers working with me was the collaboration and support we gave one another. For the kids, having a clear idea of expectations and rubrics that identified what high level collaboration looked like was really helpful. We relied heavily on material from the Buck Institute to support us with this. we also used Edmodo as a virtual space for collaboration and reflective feedback. It sounds like you’re doing wonderful things at your school. It’s great to see an example of leadership supporting and encouraging systemic change.

  6. Greg–I’d echo what others have said above, especially Jenny Luca. You tackle so many important questions here in one post, my first reply would involve prioritizing a bit around a few big ideas, setting some clear goals, and working through collaborative iteration that involves students and–critically–the local community.I’ve always thought of learning from the learners backwards, but to facilitate that requires a flexible approach to curricular planning–PBL being one way to provide such flexibility. This also requires a rethinking of what "curriculum" is beyond a series of planned lessons. Learning spaces are critical, but more critical are the reasons to learn. What impetus and need to know are learners "burdened" with? "Success" there–and a heavy dose of curiosity–can fix a lot of issues that surface later.You might consider one blog post per question, as they are almost all–in some way–macro concerns.This is great thinking!

  7. Hi Greg,Thanks for the invite to comment. Fabulous direction! You have covered a great deal of ground. Two extra questions that you probably have answered but that are certainly key in our similar environment:1) How can you free up the timetable so that learning is maximised?2) How will you provide ongoing PD and other support for teachers who are also learners in this new paradigm?

  8. Hello Greg, thanks for the opportunity to read your reflections. there are some exciting things happening at your school! I undertand by your commentary that Connected Learning will be your theme or focus for 2013, I like it.I’d be interested to ask you and your team what good teaching and learning looks like in your context. Have you had a discussion about it and reached some agreement / alignment? What process(se) did you use to come to that shared agreement? This might be useful to others. From there, what strategies are in place to connect the vision / agreement to teaching and learning? Perhaps this is something about connecting people, policy and practice? When you reflect at the end of 2013, what do predict will be different about what happens at the school now in comparison? So I have answered your questions with more questions!

  9. You have raised some very good points here Greg. I like the method you have suggested for Year 7. This cross curricular approach almost sounds like a primary classroom. The inquiry style is a meaningful manner in which to investigate any topic. It encourages students to ask and pose questions while digging deeply in order to find what they are looking for. The teacher’s role is definitely to faciltate and guide the students down this path.You ask if Web 2.0 is part of the process? Without a doubt. The possibilities for ICT tools to assist the students as they journey down this path are endless. Blogs are very powerful tool as they give the student the ability to power to relect as they journey down the Inquiry path. They are also excellent tools for students to receive feedback from each other, their facilitators and family members.

  10. "Thank you" to each and every one of you for posting. I acknowledge there were many questions put to the Connected Learning Team, each one of them with a ‘macro’ focus. The questions given to the Team last week, along with some great coaching by Steve Collis from NBCS, enabled them to establish priorities over the next 6 to 8 weeks. There was a lot of peeling back layers to identify what great learning (and the role of the teacher) looks like.The Team are functioning very well indeed. The dynamics are great and the opportunity is there for them to develop in another way as educators of young men and women. You should not wish your life away, but I am excited about the possibilities at Mater Dei in 2013 complementing the already great work that goes on at the College.

  11. My question would focus on quick wins with staff and students and long terms wins – be ware the quick win mentaility as it is about cultural shift – also – how will you deal with failure (in inevitable part of success)? Also – read Couros say via Twitter that typically if teachers and students don’t see something as effective within 2 weeks of starting it – they dump it – links to learn what you need when you need it – how do you prioritise the teachers and student needs? What would your first point of action be.Cheers,Catherine

  12. You raise a lot of important questions, Greg. In my experience the way into this is a simple understanding that good teachers make a difference to learning. They have both deep pedagogical knowledge and deep content knowledge. It is not a matter of being a guide on the side, a sage on the stage or the meddler in the middle – the name means nothing. Good teachers know how to craft learning experiences for each individual child. Learning spaces, technology, etc are the tools to support good teachers. The challenge of looking at “learning to learn” assessment is that “assessment” is such a pejorative word and it has come to be seen as simply testing. We need to broaden our understanding of personalised learning by looking at students’ performance across a range of domains – part of which may be an assessment of content, but it might also be an evaluation of a student’s artwork. This means adopting a broader range of methodologies to identify what young people have learned and where they need to go.Great discussion.

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