Here's what I plan to present in my 7 minute presentation at the Adelaide TeachMeet on Thursday afternoon.

TeachMeet Adelaide Presentation Script - "Innovation + Leadership = Change "

Hi, I'm Graham Wegner. I'm currently an Assistant Principal at Woodville Gardens School B-7 with a focus on Learning Technologies and Admin but prior to this appointment, I was the ICT Coordinator at Lockleys North Primary starting in 2003. My current school is fortunate enough to be part of a DECD Innovative Learning Environment project group which is an interesting experience in itself. The schools that are part of this project are all doing things that fall outside the bounds of what other schools think is possible or permissible within our state education system, or in the case of the three PPP (Private Public Partnership) schools or "super schools" as we've been dubbed by the media purpose built with a view to doing things differently and encouraging innovation. There are lots of aspects of our school's physical designs that move teacher thinking away from the isolated classroom approach to education, and we have been set up well with an excellent wireless network but innovation that leads to meaningful change doesn't just happen because the physical environment suggests it. Another interesting aside is that all three PPP schools in the project (Blair Athol North, Mark Oliphant College and us) all serve complex, lower socio-economic communities so it could be interpreted that there is a realisation that the way school has always been done hasn't served these communities well and that the magnifying  effects that disadvantage can have on student learning outcomes needs innovative thinking to effect change.

And it is this idea of innovation linked to change that I'd like to discuss in the time I have here this afternoon. In general, throughout the world, innovation drives change, with the goal being that this change is for the better, be it better ways to communicate, better ways to solve crime, to entertain ourselves, to cure or relieve ailments and so on. Education has been labelled, fairly or otherwise, as an institution that is slow to change and is in fact, a very difficult way for innovation to take place and flourish. However, we are at a point in time where the advancement of technology, the product of innovation, is forcing change throughout the world - some of it political as we can see in examples like MySchool and teacher accountability measures, some of it social in examples like Facebook and YouTube - and there is a real societal backlash landing back on schools as a result. And large systems like DECD aren't well equipped to be nimble and adaptive to external change pressure - and we as educators cop flak about the bad teachers, the worthless SACE subjects, the social media entanglements that our students get involved in, the lack of male teachers and are painted as this conservative bunch who shut the classroom door each day and forget that the outside world exists.

Except that doesn't really happen. There are plenty of innovative educators out there and it wouldn't be a stretch for me to generalise that all of us here tonight at this TeachMeet are innovators of sorts, or at least, see ourselves as agents of change. We are the first to try things out at our respective sites. We are the ones who change things for our students - and we find it enormously frustrating that others, sometimes the considerable majority that the media must be referring to when the profession is slammed in the papers, don't see the urgency or the opportunities that we see as being obvious.

A quick disclaimer then a quick example. When I portray myself as innovative, I know that it is all contextual and relative. Since becoming a networked learner who relies on the internet for self learning opportunities, I know that most of the ideas I've trialled in my classrooms have all been done before by other trailblazers scattered around the world. So, I'm referring to innovative in terms of the status quo for South Australian schools not as compared against other innovative ideas from around the world. Anyway, onto the example which has two parts. In 2006, I posted a presentation for the K12Online Conference titled "No Teacher Left Behind: The Urgency of Web 2.0" - a pretentious title for a pretentious topic. It was a rallying call for progressive educators to get on board with internet based tools and start networking with other educators to become better learners. Well, I could pull up the same presentation five and a half years later, and not a lot seems to have changed in classrooms in this neck of the woods. In 2008, I started student blogging at Lockleys North with my class and last year left a program being run by my immediate colleagues who saw the value in the innovation and made the change in their practice to offer this learning opportunity for their students. But upon my arrival at Woodville Gardens, I found that student blogging was a concept that hadn't hit classrooms yet and I realised (although I always susupected) that my participation in something innovative in South Australia hasn't translated to a change across more schools than the one where I first took up the innovation.

So, innovation can push towards change, but there is a missing ingredient that I believe that the collective "we" are responsible for - leadership.

Leadership can look like many things. It can be a formal role like the one I have now. But we all know that formal roles don't automatically translate to change either. I'm sure you all know of principals who believe that their job is to keep things running exactly as is - unless the department tells them otherwise. And it is no fun trying to be the innovative teacher in one of those schools either. But in a formal role, I have a better shot at influencing more educators compared to when I was the classroom teacher and could only influence the teachers next door to me. As a coordinator I could make inroads into a team or targetted group but those of us who are or have been coordinators know the difficult task that role can be. But as an Assistant Principal, I have the authority to determine school directions that can turn innovative ideas and programs into progressive more commonplace practice.

But not everyone wants an official leadership role. So leadership opportunities can be found elsewhere - and the most innovative space to do so is online. There are countless examples o f people who started an online presence from their classroom who wield enormous amounts of influence because they put their practices, their innovation in a place where anyone or everyone could find them. Try throwing these names into Google and see what you find - Brian Crosby, who works out of a classroom in Nevada who ended up presenting to international school educators in a major conference in China, international school leader Kim Cofino who posted about that 2006 presentation of mine pondering my advice and now is someone who I aspire to be like in terms of vision and getting real learning change happening. Try Dan Meyer, who was a young high school Maths teacher who started a blog for fun, is now doing a PhD and has worked for Google and Pearson, but still sees his blog as the best personal professional growth he could ever have - and for one closer to home, New South Wales high school teacher, Bianca Hewes, whose innovation in using Project Based Learning combined with student social networking tool Edmodo got her a trip of a lifetime to ISTE last year as Edmodo's featured blogger!

So, in closing, the problem with being innovative is that while you are always looking to improve things, it is hard to move on knowing that your initial innovations have not become commonplace. As I tweeted last year at one of the ILE conferences:

You can't have everyone being innovative 'cos it can't be innovation if everyone is doing it! #DECD_SA

So, my challenge to you all is to find your leadership niche so that your innovation can become positive, meaningful change. Thanks for listening.

So I finally sat down and watched the KONY 2012 video tonight. A colleague had pointed me towards it earlier in the week just as it was starting to go viral but my urgency to check it out was tempered by a post on ShortFormBlog that hinted that it might be wise not to take the video as pure fact.

I'm not the only one intrigued by the clever use of social media to tell this story. KerryJ reacted in a similar fashion to a number of my work colleagues while Daniel Stucke mirrored many of my personal reactions to the whole KONY2012 issue. How we bite on a well crafted, emotional message either shows our own feelings of compassion, levels of cynicism or the very human need to feel like we can make a difference in or to the world. It is also a measure of our digital literacy skills - the skills that we are (supposedly) teaching to our students.

By mid-week, the backlash against the video started to show in mainstream sites. The Atlantic was particularly harsh:

Kony 2012 is so seductive for precisely the same reasons that make it so dangerous. The half-hour video, now viewed 40 million times, sets viewers up for a message so gratifying and fulfilling that it is almost impossible to resist: there is a terrible problem in the world, you are the solution, and all you have to do is pass along this video.

I find it interesting that it seems to be mainstream news media outlets that are leading the pushback. Effective digital literacy would include questioning their motives as well as the Invisible Children organisation who produced and posted the video. Could it be that they has been caught napping on a very important issue? Could it be that this video treads into what traditional news media might see as their turf?

The only other thing that I would add as an average citizen of a privileged country is this. Before Monday, I had never heard of Joseph Kony or the LRA. The sheer momentum that this video has produced has raised my and the millions of viewers worldwide's collective consciousness. Whether we support or dismiss the goals and actions of the KONY2012 movement, or the target of their campaign, one thing is certain.

Now we all know.

NB: Seth Godin analyses the video from a social media perspective here. And I highly recommend the ShortFormBlog's even handed coverage of the unfolding events. And as a final bonus, check out the graph below from Wikipedia edits on the Joseph Kony page as people jump on board to rewrite the definitive article on the central figure in the whole saga.


I pose the above question because I am seeing a rise in popularity for teachers using sites like Mathletics, StudyLadder, MangaHigh and others as part of their learning program for their students. Now I have no axe to grind with these sites as many students do find them engaging and a way to improve their mathematical facts recall but I am concerned that in some cases, these sites are being used as "the maths programme" for the class and/or being used to address the use of technology in the classroom.

I'd love the opinion of a progressive maths educator as to the relative value of a site like Mathletics. My own personal experience with my eldest son is that the activities are easily gamed. My son is lousy at maths but has an excellent memory. He can do a multiple choice activity by trial and error, remembering the correct answer after multiple tries and just keeps restarting the activity until he gets a clear run and a memorised sequence of answers in his head. Now that might be a feat in itself but it does nothing for his understanding - and just cements all the problems that students get when trying to operate in digital abstraction when their needs are still in the physical concrete. But from his teacher's point of view, he is getting 20/20 in the set activities and looks like he has achieved mastery. I have a feeling that many of these sites have the same problem. They present mathematical learning as a correct answer scenario and can only use that data to measure progress. So, a teacher blindly substituting Mathletics (and I keep picking on this site because it is the one I am most familiar with and the one most South Australian schools are prepared to fork over precious dollars to but every education sector in the world would have its equivalents) cannot possibly know if the student is truly demonstrating mathematical learning.

The first part of my question is also part of my issue. Unless you are part of a 1 to 1 laptop school (and that is a privileged minority in the primary school sector) then you have to share fleets of laptops or computing suites with other classes within the school. Technology access is an issue that all schools have to wrestle with - using timetables, rotations and pods to make sure that the available technology is frequently and flexibly used. As we are living in a era where technology gives our students the opportunity to create, construct and reflect, then it makes sense that the majority of the technology access for our students should be devoted to that goal. These sites, in my opinion, don't fit the bill.

Am I the only one who has a problem with these sites? Is part of my problem my inability to communicate to others what the alternative - a research based comparison of city temperatures utilising web data and Excel created by my tandem partner last year with my class springs to mind - might look like?

I've been thinking about posting about this issue since I read this article in the local paper. In summary, commercial radio stations want to ditch the 25% Australian music quota requirement that has been in place for a long time now. This naturally has the local music industry calling foul but the issue is complicated by the fact that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has exempted digital radio stations from the same requirement.

I'm not a big listener to radio but I do enjoy Australian music and I'm sure that radio does have a fair bit to do with how Aussie bands fair in the marketplace. 25 per cent is a reasonable ask but does the radio industry have a point in an age where anyone with an internet connection can tap into music from any of the web based radio stations out there. I've often used YouTube as a way of exploring new music and reacquainting myself with some classics from the past - and I'm not required to adhere to any quota.

So, this is the internet and I'll do my bit for Australian music. I can usually ignore whatever is on the charts anyway so I'll leave you with four reasons why you should ensure that your own music lists have a bit of Aussie in it. (And I won't insult you by including anything from TV talent shows.)



I stumbled across this during a search for resources on the history of media, and just really like the way the story is told in both message and medium. Being at a school now where the percentage of English as Second Language (ESL) students is around 75%, this particular tale is a good example of how technology can help to bridge generations, languages and cultures.

Bud Hunt on the concept of professional distance:

For the same reason that I set boundaries in my face to face interactions with students, I maintain some sense of professional separation in online spaces. I’d encourage you to consider carefully you and your community’s comfort as you intentionally choose the public faces of your online self. And, whatever you decide, please communicate it to the students and families in your care. Make sure your administrators know what — and where and how — you’re doing.

My response:

Bud, a number of teachers I work with use Facebook as their main entry point onto the internet and they treat it very much in the way that more experienced social media experts warn us that our students are using it – to let off steam, to let their hair down – without realising that it is not just their close circle of friends who may be watching. They would argue that it is their right to treat Facebook as part of their private, non-school life without being bound by a higher behaviour code than their non-school acquaintances and family members. So party pics, expletive laden comments and membership of dodgy “likes” still abound in their accounts – it makes it hard to be giving out advice to students about “be careful about what you post” when they don’t see that everything posted onto this one site is forming a very comprehensive digital footprint. But then again, for a few teachers teaching is just a job, not a calling, so naively believing that one can separate one’s private from professional in the digital world is probably not surprising.

It always seems unfair to hold educators to higher levels of conduct than the general population, especially when it doesn't seem to make much difference to the public perceptions of the profession. But we are in a different era now. Kids used to think that teachers lived at the school and had no private life. But now without some carefully considered lines drawn in the sand, kids now have access to anything that an educator chooses to post online. Saying that one is entitled to a private life doesn't make a lot of sense if you don't actually take some measures to keep it private. We all know Facebook is the least private place going around.


Tonight's learner PD was using Google Maps to create a story. Here's the link to the story I created as the example and stimulus for my small group of keen learners.

View My Journey As An Educator in a larger map

I was thinking that this could be a great tool for so many things - great for SOSE, mapping locations from stories, creating narratives, histories, mathematical journeys etc. This has been blogged thoroughly by the talented Silvia Tolisano, and this project could also kick start some great story telling and learning. I could imagine some powerful stories from my school's multicultural student population tracing their family's journey to Adelaide - although many have histories that may not be pleasant to re-visit so sensitivity is always required. An upper primary colleague now wants me to work with her class using Google Maps. I like the look of the Map Maker as well, especially as it comes with plenty of self help documentation. And if I knew how to create the required XML file, then something like Map My Life would be possible.

Being here in Australia, I didn't pay too much attention to the Vancouver riots after the NHL finals loss of their local team until I read about the role that social media played in the events of that day on Stephen Downes' OLDaily. His links got me interested, and over the last few days I've followed numerous other links and sought to make some sense of the vast array of views and counter-views that are online. So, here are some tenuous thoughts...

In an age where we are concerned about privacy and the role that closed circuit video has in our society for catching wrong doers, it is ironic that people think nothing of the potential surveillance in people's hands and pockets in the form of their smartphones. So, when things swung out of control in Vancouver, those "caught up in the moment" never considered that their actions captured and uploaded to the web might come back to bite them on the backside. One of the sites that Stephen points to is run by Captain Vancouver, who combines the actions of naming and shaming real people behind the protection of an online alias. Here, commenters sway between admiration for this new form of online accountability or the reviling of an online vigilante squad caught up in their own moment of "seeking justice". I'm still not sure where I sit because some of the actions of those participating were so moronic and lacking in any moral fibre that seeing some form of justice dished out seems to be perfectly defensible. But then the comments take their own dark turn and the Captain's intents are being hijacked by others and turned into racist, misogynist, homophobic attacks that undermine the moral high ground that the site's owner wants to be able to maintain.

In a lot of ways, the rioters who posted about their own antics on Facebook and Twitter have messed in their own nest, and are reaping the consequences in more ways than they ever could have anticipated. It is a fascinating insight into mob human behaviour. People behaved as if they were truly anonymous, unleashing their most inappropriate and hedonistic actions on property, public and private - and what I've viewed across the web, there is certainly no stereotypical rioter. In fact, most of the names and faces that crop with regularity seem to be bright, ordinary people - kids still at high school, people working for charities and university students. Did they fail to notice the array of mobile phones held high recording moments for posterity? Except posterity is now a Facebook profile, or a Twitpic link or a YouTube upload. And are the bystanders whose footage is now being used in the digital witchhunt just as guilty for standing by and being part of the rebellion? Or were they adopting the position of citizen journalists?

So the rioters had their fun, the police dispersed them eventually and the mainstream press filed their reports. But many net savvy citizens were very unhappy about the way that individuals had not only trashed their city but gleefully shared their antics for anyone in the world to see. So, the various shaming sites I mentioned before started to spring up. Some merely had the goal of posting clear pics of persons of interest asking if anyone recognising them to contact the Vancouver Police Department.

Just five days after the June 15 riot that plunged the Canadian city into three hours of chaos, police had received 3,500 e-mails that included 53 videos, 708 photographs and 1,011 hyperlinks to social media sites such as Facebook.

Now police have warned outraged residents to avoid using social media to exact vigilante justice. Authorities "are asking the public to resist the temptation to take justice into their own hands," the police said in a statement.

Others, like Captain Vancouver, decided that some meticulous research across varying forms of social media held to some personally defined standards would be the way to ensure that these everyday people were held to some form of justice. These sites weren't buying the "I was caught up in the moment" reasons offered by some identified and also felt that the court system would merely give out a "slap on the wrist" for anyone who was arrested anyway. But there is always the risk of getting the facts wrong, as the police found out.

So, maybe not quite uberveillance but another cross-pollination of mobile devices combined with social media mixed in with old fashioned mob rule produces results that spiral and viral way beyond the control of any individual whose profile can be matched. I mean, what are the odds of wearing the same outfit when stealing from a store as on your social media profile? And someone is ready to mix and match the whole concoction together in another example of internet remix interactivity.

Name That Moron Screengrab

Name That Moron Screengrab

How we make sense of the world beyond our own personal day to day experiences?

For me, it started with books mixed with the occasional dose of television back in a fairly isolated childhood back on the farm. My first impressions of what life might be like in the English countryside were shaped by Enid Blyton books and popular music culture via Molly Meldrum and the weekly Countdown Top Ten. I was so insulated in this rural, Lutheranised existence that when I started Year Five at the Appila Rural School (school population: 13 kids) I had no answer to the typical Australian playground question, "Who do you barrack for?" My then best friend went for the Port Adelaide Magpies and so I did. His favourite player was Russell Ebert and so he became mine. Saturday afternoon SANFL broadcasts on the radio and Saturday evening replays suddenly opened up a part of the world that I had no idea existed.

So information flowed to me through newspapers, radio, books, films and television, painting a collective picture of the world beyond my day to day experiences. My concepts of other countries, of other places, of other people were all shaped by this information drip feed. And I thought that I was pretty well informed although in reality, my grasp was pretty opaque in its clarity.

Contrast that now to the view of the outside world that I now get through digital technologies. Much has been written about the fire hose effect of the web but the freedom I now have to pursue any line of research or interest that I want is bringing my learning to an unparallelled level. A concept or topic might come up in conversation and via the internet, I can be tracking down digital pieces to bring together a richer and deeper understanding. Maybe a few examples paint the picture about how the web can fill in the gaps of comprehension.

A few years ago, my class were covering an inquiry unit on the plight of refugees and we were lucky enough to have a student teacher of Serbian background whose family had fled war torn Sarajevo speak to the students about her experiences. That talk prompted my own curiosity and via the web, I easily found articles, video clips and images that helped to grasp some (definitely not all) of the wider perspective of an extremely complex situation.  I could read first hand accounts from multiple perspectives, view the work of photojournalist Ron Haviv or view any number of first hand home video accounts on YouTube. All of this adds up to a much more complex and informative picture than any sanitised television special or reference book could provide.

Digital information and media delivers more detail, more avenues to explore and a greater opportunity for self-participation in the pursuit of learning than mere paper based text or traditional media can deliver alone. That does not mean that traditional outlets don't have a part to play in my expanding knowledge of the world that I cannot see, touch or feel on a daily basis but my greatest moments of clarity happen more and more online. Individuals who I have never met face to face offer insights into their personal life that enable me to peek into the ordinary and mundane (to them anyway) parts of their everyday life that I find personally interesting and insightful. Be it Doug Noon's descriptions of an Alaskan winter, the first snow fall in Chris Harbeck's Winnipeg, Sue Waters' tweets about American Coke or Leigh Blackall's family trip to the Philippines, I get a little taste of the world beyond my limited suburban Australian vista.

It does reinforce the old adage that the more you know, the more you start to realise that you don't know very much of what there is to know. The internet is the greatest repository of human knowledge ever assembled and traversing its vastness one network link at a time is all one person can do.


This is purely a vanity posting and possibly demonstrates how traditional media (newspapers, magazines etc.) still have a pretty strong hold on my consciousness. Many of my virtual colleagues are featured with regularity in magazines, quoted in articles, featured in television segments but it is a real rarity for me and perhaps befits my station in life. My opinion was sought a little while back for a piece in Adelaide's The Independent Weekly and then late last year, I was contacted by an editor at Australian Teacher Magazine to contribute to a small column feature called Q & A for their monthly ICT In Education section. I almost forgot about it until an email arrived from the same magazine plugging something else and triggered my memory and sent me looking online to see if I'd made "the big time".

It's in the February edition and below is a screen grab of the column. I've then copied the article into a easier to read image if you actually want to read it or you can check out the whole virtual version of the magazine here.ozteachermag