A Bold Idea To Better Use Time

In my current role I support and challenge Principals and Leadership Teams to lead their communities to attain improvement through inquiry. I enjoy my visits to schools, discussions with principals and engagement with their learning community. Most particularly, I admire the energy and expertise that these leaders and their teachers dedicate towards the learning agenda of the students who come under their care. They do this despite increasing demands on their time.

For quite a while now, my Twitter PLN, most particularly my #INF537 #dbblearn and @materdeiwagga colleagues, know I have been interested in how schools can use time to accelerate change in their settings. Over the last six months, I have noted “TIME” as being an increasingly precious asset. Over the last three months I started to note more closely note various concerns about “TIME”. Here are some direct quotes……

“We have more teaching face to face hours in Australia than most other countries in the world.”

“We looked into a project but got held up by reports, exams and marking.”

“We need more time to share our experiences of practice with each other.”

“We just don’t get the time to meet and plan.”

“There are competing demands on time.”

“We want to provide more opportunities to share practice which are aligned to the goals of the school.”

The hard nosed people reading this blog will argue, “It’s all about priorities! Just re-organsie your time and do what’s important.” That may be a fair comment; however, others may argue that schools are asked to do more and more without being allowed to let things go.  The reality is that governments and education systems continue to ask more of our schools, placing increased stress on the resource of time.

We need to approach this concept and use of TIME with Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset by embracing the challenge to use time more wisely! In doing so, and with a solutions focused approach to the challenge, I share one idea with you…. 

School “A” is a secondary school in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. In NSW, the regulatory authority mandates the minimum delivery of 400 hours of English, Mathematics, Science and HSIE (History, Society and its Environment) to students across Years 7 to 10. However, at School “A”, they deliver 520 Hours of English, Maths, Science and HSIE across Years 7 to 10. This is a combine surplus of 480 hours (across the four subjects over four years); 120 hours per year. Just to give you an idea of what can be done with that time, Music/Visual Arts is allocated 240 hours, over two years, for Year 7 & 8. LOTE (Languages Other Than English) is allocated 120 hours in Year 8. As per its timetable, that is 3 x 1 hours lessons per week for four years. WOW! What if?????

What if….. the 120 hours per year could be better used to address our era of rapid change by developing skills of students to use information to co-create knowledge and (hopefully) solve real world problems?

What if….. the 120 hours was used as a three hour block every week? In that three hours students could work on their Genius Hour project that promote the skills of collaboration (teamwork), critical thinking, creativity, innovation & leadership. After that was finished, say after 90 minutes, students could go home early and then teachers could engage in regular weekly professional learning. Teachers could……

  • work together in teams to plan, prepare, review and evaluate learning. WOW!
  • engage in planned, structured action research inquiry on a weekly basis using collaborative technologies which support student learning. 
  • rework a unit of work applying the principles of challenged based learning, project based learning or inquiry learning.
  • produce videos for Flipped Learning approaches.
  • rewrite programs using Learning Design Principles – UBD.
  • develop an online learning course for one of their subjects – did some say “anywhere, any time learning”?
  • work in teams to develop a social and emotional skills continuum.
  • prepare rubrics which attempt to measure collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving in classrooms – what does that look like?
  • reflect on, and engage with, evidence and data sources (quantitative and qualitative) which is focused on student learning. Then the teachers could develop hunches and design rich questions which they interpret from the evidence and data.
  • create “reflection routines” allowing for time at the end of each lesson for students to articualte and synthesize the important points.

Yes, such an idea would require extensive consultation with staff, students and parents. And, I know there will be the inevitable person yell loudly, “We won’t get through the content.” But Puuuhhlllleeeezzzze, when did any student suffer from “not getting through the content” in Year 7, 8, 9 or 10? There will be also those who will say, “That won’t work because…..” However, I ask those who can, to make bold decisions about better use of time by ignoring the choir of

Yes, but

Let’s roll our sleeves up and produce the effort required to overcome obstacles which get in the way of finding time and make decisions which are in the best interests of student learning. I welcome comments from people who want to explore answers to these questions…..

  • How CAN we find the time?
  • How CAN we use it better?

I look forward to reading about your ideas.


Masters Completed – BAMM. That Just Happened!

Late last week I received feedback for my final assignment for the final subject of a Masters in Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation hosted by CSU. The Masters course was practical, challenging and certainly developed my ability to identify, use and evaluate digital technologies for learning, teaching and professional practice. Furthermore, I deepened my understanding of the social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use. Most importantly for this day and age, the course greatly enhanced my ability to manage personal and participatory knowledge networks to communicate and work collaboratively and effectively with others.

The final subject was the capstone subject, Digital Futures Colloquium #INF537. INF537 has greatly added to my knowledge and deepened my understanding of the work of an educational professional in digital environments through participatory experiences including, but not limited to:

  • blogging, and the ensuing comments,
  • forum posts, and ensuing responses,
  • Adobe Connect which introduced us to experts, and
  • on Twitter through #INF537

As a member of the INF537 cohort, I was a learner who used, “new technologies to participate in virtual communities where they share ideas, comment on one another’s projects, and plan, design, implement, advance, or simply discuss their practices, goals and ideas together” Davidson and Theo (2010:12). As a part of the Adobe Connect session held Thursday 13 August, Tim Kladpor (2015) highlighted the issue of ‘Data Sovereignty’, encouraged us to dream possibilities of the ‘co-operative’ and challenged the notion of data ownership when authentically engaging in true sense of distributed networks though the Network ‘Common’. As part of my post,Data, Algorithms and Enclosure, I referred to Elizabeth Stark who suggests that people engaged in traditional structures are often threatened by newer paradigms around ownership and control.

Further to the matter of data ownership, on 29 August after hearing Jack Andraka speak at the Melbourne Writer’s festival, I blogged about his frustration accessing research articles from “behind the paywall”. Jack advocates for crowd-sourcing information which is freely accessible to academics and researchers in the hope that it will assist people to answer big questions and solve real word problems in a more expedient manner. The implication here is that, as educational professionals in the school digital environment, teachers are obligated to explore how information can be crowd-sourced to increase knowledge and improve learning outcomes for students.

Jack Andraka

The work of an an educational professional in digital environments requires engagement with co-operative practices. Most particularly, I have been reminded through INF537 discussion forums  that participatory learning experiences can assist people to make meaning through collective engagement. Through the exchange of ideas, I learnt from others and acquired clarity for upcoming assessment tasks.

Increased accessibility to mobile devices and cloud based applications means secondary schools are, by nature, digital environments. Teachers, as the educational professionals within those environments, need to acknowledge and respond to this reality. My involvement with INF537 has impacted on my daily work as a senior leader in a school system. As a person who serves in a position of influence, I am aware of the need for me to facilitate opportunities which enable and encourage teachers as educational professionals when working in digital environments.

As such, INF537 has shaped my thinking when working with the Head of Professional Learning to offer INSPIRE; an initiative which invites schools to engage in a disciplined innovation process which aims to encourage educators to co-design new pedagogical practices which are transferable, sustainable and scalable. Participation requires teachers to engage with digital technologies to regularly reflect and comment on the blogs of other educational professionals, within system and across our globally connected world. The use of cloud based applications to access experts will be particularly encouraged and I am hopeful the connections I have made through INF537 will be useful for variety of projects. Such practices will support collaborative behaviours of working towards a common goal within INSPIRE teams, as well as support cooperative behaviours of sharing freely across system Communities of Practice. Collaborative and co-operative behaviours are encouraged, if not expected of educational professionals in the digital environments of a secondary schools.

Participation in INF537 has confirmed my strong belief that education professionals in digital environments need to develop strong networks, act as connected educators and access opportunities that digital environments offer educational professionals. Completion of this Master Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation has been as much satisfying as it has been challenging. It is now time to have a break from formal study, but not a time to stop learning!


Davidson, C, & Theo, D (2010). The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age  MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England.

Klapdor, T. (13 August 2015). You Are Not In Control. CSU INF537 Online Adobe Seminar.