small moments matter

As I work with leaders, teachers and learners across multiple networks and contexts it has become clear that #smallmomentsmatter.
The small moment when a leader asks “good morning, how are you….and follows up with “and how is your wife/husband/family/dog/goldfish….”…the small moment that sees a teacher ask the ungoogleable “how did that feel for you….” …..the small moments when feedback is more than “good job” or “well done…”.

BIG DATA – massive amounts of information that takes tremendous processing power; inaccessible to you and me in our moment by moment lives….but what about small data? Those in-the-moment-observations and chances, in a volume and format that is accessible, informative and actionable. Big Data helps us in analyzing the past, but may have nothing to do with the future. Small Data is personal, actionable and about Presence.*

Small data; small moments go hand-in-hand with the “e” word: explicit.
Explicit intent.
Explicit focus.
Explicit sensitivity and connection to context.

For Leaders, small moments build relationships.
For teachers, small moments allow us to personalize learning design.
For students, when small moments matter, learning is connected to who they are, where they are, and makes learning authentic, purposeful, engaging and challenging.

Small moments are woven into the fabric of every day, every hour.
Pursue them, recognize them, embrace them…..big change starts with small moments.


* Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. Peter M. Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers. A great read!

Also see our bestseller Deep Learning – engage the world change the world for vignettes and illustrations about how #smallmomentsmatter

Cccc Creativity!

A recent meandering conversation directed my thinking back to the notion of

“Big C – little c” creativity.

The origin of these terms is attributed to James C. Kaufman and Ron Beghetto who together created the Four-C Model of Creativity, which outlines different levels of creativity:

  • “Big C” – genius level innovation and creativity – think Albert Einstein!
  • “little c” creativity describes the small ideas and “a-ha’s” that enhance and enrich our lives — like creating a new recipe, teaching your dog a new trick or coming up with a new way to format a report for your company — but which rarely bring us fame or fortune.

Between Big and little c, lie two other variants:

  • “mini-c” is the creativity that happens in the learning process. It could be a child learning to write a song.
  • “Pro-c” is expert-level creativity. It might be someone who’s composed music that is currently popular.

Kaufmann illustrates the model like this:

The life of a creative writer might progress through these stages as follows:
At a young age, Sally learns about writing poetry and tries many different forms. She writes a sonnet, a Haiku, and free verse. These poems may not be particularly good, but they are meaningful to her. This is mini c.
As she advances, she gets better. Maybe she reads some poetry at a coffee house and gets some poems published in her college literary magazine. Other people see some value in her poetry. This is little-c (we sometimes call this “county fair creativity”).
Sally keeps improving. She gets an Master of Fine Arts and teaches poetry at a college. She regularly publishes her work in respected journals. This is Pro-c.
If she is very talented and very lucky, Sally may eventually be considered a truly great poet. Even after she has died, her writing may be studied and enjoyed by generations to come. This is Big-C.

Ok, so I like this way of focussing on creativity. I think it allows us, particularly in schools, to look at the way we scaffold and develop creativity competency in learners.

But, I wonder if there’s another layer to Kaufmann’s model – in fact a “C on C” – Collaborative Creativity.

We acknowledge the power of the collective, of the whole being more than the sum of the parts. Of leveraging and acknowledging the best work of others…
I wonder also if Collaborative C, framed as part of a learning partnership, might enable learners to move, perhaps more rapidly, from an introspective mini-c toward Pro-C…and maybe together, hit Big C.

…So if we reflect on classroom conditions that support creativity, what might we do to uncover and build on mini c moments?

…How could we explicitly leverage Collaborative C?

…What might a community of creativity look like, sound like and feel like, for all learners, for all creators?

references and acknowledgements:

James C. Kaufman:

Ron Beghetto:

Image source:

Leapfrogging Good

One of the most frustrating and limiting factors teachers, schools and systems can encounter is legacy thinking that isolates aspirations, resources, teachers and students.

Legacy thinking that frames these aspirations, resources, teachers and students as “Mine or Yours”.

Legacy thinking that reinforces silos and perpetuates the myth that he who dies with the most toys wins….

Why wouldn’t we, as Will Richardson advocates in 19 Bold Ideas for Change in Education, Share Everything.


Imagine the power of a collective, a community that begins its life by leapfrogging good, and starts at great. A collective in which practice is amplified and accelerated by the need to be excellent, just to get to the starting line.

In a post creative commons era, “Mine and Yours” legacy thinking not only loses relevance, but shackles us to prevailing practices.

In pursuit of excellence, would you consider giving away your best ideas?




Acknowledging, with respect, the thought leadership of the late Greg Butler.

November 2013, NPDL Hong Kong “Legacy thinking will hold us back”

Putting the “deep” in deep learning.

Just yesterday I was looking back at notes from our first  NPDL (New Pedagogies for Deep Learning)  global meeting in Hong Kong in October 2013 and was struck as how far we’ve come, at individual, school, cluster and global levels. Perhaps a better choice of phrase might be “how deep we’ve gone”!

Our thinking, collectively, has sharpened and has given rise to rapidly iterative development of supporting resources at local and global levels.

Like any well designed learning activity, the NPDL framework, whilst focusing on impact at student level, allows schools multiple entry points. It offers opportunities for critical alignment to individual, network and systemic priorities. What has become most evident to me is the way the framework provides throughlines for practice, drawing together the streams of leadership, teaching and learning  into a cohesive and highly relational model at conceptual and practical levels.

NPDL model

The schools I support have each focussed on how best to interpret and access the global model – again, as with a classroom task, there is great opportunity for personalised learning. Some have chosen to work on building teacher capacity  – encouraging and developing innovative pedagogical practices. Others have taken the concept of Leveraging Digital, and referencing Mal Lee’s research around “Digital Normalisation” have shifted organisational practices (including teaching, learning, administration and  leadership) to high levels of effect.

Many schools have focussed on the core practice of Collaboration, but not solely at student level. Indeed some of the most powerful work has been directed around the question “What would a highly and truly collaborative culture look like within and across staff at my school?” This hits at the NPDL foundational pillar of Learning Partnerships – the relationships between and among teachers, learners and community. I am constantly reminded of Michael Fullan’s observation in Motion Leadership that “nothing succeeds like collective capacity”, and I take great joy in seeing this in action as teachers and schools connect and work through challenges and opportunities, sharing common goals and aspirations.

I was talking with a colleague and NPDL school principal last month. Somehow we were contemplating the idea of a “Growth Mindset” – a term that seems to have great currency (at least in my twitter stream) at present. In one of those wonderful, rapid fire, exploratory conversations, something clicked, and one of us dropped the questions

“What if we had a DEPTH mindset?”

“What if we went slower to go deeper?”

So I wonder how we draw on Andy Hargreaves’ “Slow Learning”, or Steve Jacobs’ “white space for slow hunches?” I have a feeling that the initial complexity of our NPDL work has forced us to really evaluate school, network and systemic goals for learners and learning, and may have “slowed our thinking” to a point where we can now go deep into a dissection of why kids can’t wait for a different model of education. A model that makes the important measurable, not the measurable important. (Thanks Joanne and Jane).

oakdDeep Learning, and a Depth Mindset, like the mighty oak in the house next door to me, take time to grow. Perhaps we need to be explicitly conscious of time; to allow and make time to go deep as we lead and learn together, so like the oak, we can stand tall through tempest, holding fast to principles deeply rooted in the collective and powerful enough to grow through the ages.

NPDL Toronto Institute input

The challenge – and probletunity that I’d like to share with you comes from a sustained 8 months of work here in Tasmania, where I support 21 schools, primary, secondary and colleges, from K-year 12. The probletunity is around leading and supporting schools in this work; leading them with a real activator mindset, as more than a facilitator of learning.

We began the first of our 6 full day workshops in April, with a 2 day institute for school leaders from all 21 schools, a cohort of around 70 people. We insisted that schools send principals, as well as a team of leaders who would be responsible for leading the NPDL work in each school. This was a high risk – high reward strategy.

The risk – School principals are incredibly busy, so to mandate their attendance created at least a couple of pressure points – the PL had to be compelling, engaging and relevant, as well as clearly linking to their school reform agendas and plans.

The reward – From our point of view, we knew that if we did not engage strongly with principals, as lead learners, to use a Vivianne Robinson term, that the likelihood of successful implementation action and sustainability was negligible. The literature in both education and the corporate world emphasizes the importance of leaders inspiring and guiding initiatives and we know that leadership plays a central and critical role in implementing change.

So our first 2 days were really heavy – examining the NPDL frameworks and documents  – which had not been finalised at that stage, and we followed with a third day in mid-June, after the Global institute in Seattle. Feedback from school leaders was mixed – the most common being requests for real clarity around documentation, expectations and examples of real live deep learning. Whilst we had made some strong inroads into the work, we still hadn’t really nailed it…..

I was left scratching my head. In our NPDL cohort we have the bell curve we see in any classroom – innovators, early adopters, fence sitters, late majority and those grappling furiously to connect the work into context and move forward.

My challenge – my probletunity – was finding how to meet the needs of such a diverse class – to differentiate the learning. It was at this time I recalled a framework I have used to underpin a number of long term PL programs. It comes from the good people at the Berkana Institute, an NGO who are about creating community partnerships.

Their framework is deceptively simple. Until you put it into practice.

It consists of 4 stages that aren’t necessarily linear, or discrete, and the stages are:

Name – Connect – Nourish  and Illuminate.

berkanaTo give you a brief summary of my interpretation of the framework:

Pioneering leaders often act in isolation, unaware that their work has broader value.  They are too busy to think about extending their work, and too humble to think that others would benefit. So Naming them up in fact helps them connect  (stage 2) and this Connection is all about building relationships, finding common threads, practices needs and challenges.

Communities of practice need many different resources. Two have resonated for me in practice:

The first is learning. Learning what works, learning from experience and Ensuring that learning IS the work.

The second, and most significant dimension of connection and nourishment is around relationships. The interactions and exchanges among pioneering leaders themselves. Leaders and teachers need and want to share their practices, experiences and dreams.  Creating opportunities and resourcing people so they can learn together has become a powerful way to nourish their efforts.

So name – connect – nourish – the fourth stage is Illuminate.

It takes time, attention and a consistent focus for people to see different approaches for what they are: examples of what’s possible……….of what our new world could be like.

Illuminating, making visible, celebrating and sharing the stories of pathfinding efforts is a critical part of building a culture of success.

So as this framework for supporting emergence of new practice reoccurred to me, it shifted and concentrated my focus and gave me a new lens under which to reframe the work supporting our schools.

We undertook some data gathering – using an online survey to ask school to prioritise their needs and focus areas. At the same time I visited each school and had significant conversations with leaders about the place of NPDL – digging deep to find the fit with their school improvement priorities. I was connecting and nourishing the work.

The fit was there, in every case – it just took some effort to find. We had many “a ha” moments. These conversations were critical to building individual and shared understanding of this work. These individual conversations were critical to connecting.

With our resource documentation pack released, expectations defined and a growing understanding of what this work was really about in each of our school contexts, connections between schools began to emerge.

Our data gathering allowed me to continue to find and share common aspirations, doubts and possible shared focuses, because I had a view from both the dance floor and the balcony. Again there was that idea of nourishment though thread finding and connecting.

Across days 4 and 5 of our program, we instigated a series called short stories about shift. In 10 minute snapshots, schools shared their journey, successes, connections and challenges with our cohort. Not only were we hearing and seeing, naming and connecting, but we were illuminating, in a trusting and safe environment, and in doing so, building shared practice – using the group to change, or build and empower the group, as Michael Fullan might say.

Sharing short stories about shift has been the singularly most powerful factor in building confidence, and creating authentic links between schools, leaders and teachers.

As I look back on the NCNI framework, it’s very much about emergence – discovering shared meaning and purpose, developing new practices together, and then making these practices the norm….

So what have I learned over the course of leading this work?

  1. This work is about simplexity – “Finding the smallest number of high-leverage, easy-to-understand actions that unleash stunningly powerful consequences.” (Fullan, 2010a, p.16).
  2. Again and again, we reiterate to schools and leaders; this is long term work- there’s no state of being behind, or failing to achieve – this is doable, but it’s challenging, as any change leadership is – so we have to explicitly remind and support all leaders to bring their A game in strategic change leadership – because they will need it
  3. At a personal level, my role is to activate, exploit, pursue and manufacture connections between and among schools, and school leaders.
  4. And finally, we want to embed this work – to ensure that Deep Learning is a part of the DNA of every school, and every learner…it has to be inseparably linked to each school’s improvement plans so that we can produce sustainable and sustained shift, away from the rhetoric and into tangibly measurable impact of deep learning on teachers, learners and community.

My grandfather was a builder and a huge influence on my life, so I often try to simplify to “build metaphors” so in this case,

Leading this work comes back to 3 builds, if you like:

building relationships,

building understanding,

and building capacity

and for me the Berkana framework Name-Connect-Nourish-Illuminate  provides a scaffold for my practice as a leader of change, and explicitly and effectively helps me grow the emergence of a new community of practice around New Pedagogies for Deep Learning.

It has turned a potential program-halting challenge into an opportunity for growth, reinvention and Education Plus, helping me to model Ethical  Entrepreneurialism in a practical, authentic and concrete leadership role.

As leaders of this work, I think we have to push boundaries, but we have to also negotiate system needs and mandates. The delicate work of making NPDL accessible for all will continue to challenge us. So I want to close by commending  the Berkana framework for emergence to you as one tool that may help us all to navigate this journey.




Berkana Emergence Framework:

When Change Has Legs. David N. Perkins and James D. Reese

the framework in action:

Rich Learning to Deep Learning

ipadMy daughter can immerse herself in learning in ways I could only have dreamed of at her age! I watch her, slightly enviously, as she travels across the solar systems and oceans, and talks (or at least listens to) real live astronauts and experts of choice. Instead of reading thru a couple of possibly musty, dusty, static books about space, she can soar thru galaxies. How magnificently engaging.

The change in our learners’ capacities to access and engage with information, and the increasing impact of media and technology on how young people learn and relate to the world and to each other is a huge driver for being a part of the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning Partnership.

A question for me is how do we turn this Rich Learning into Deep Learning; several drivers seem to push us in this direction more and more strongly.

A recent book excerpt, Teaching for Meaningful Learning, by Brigid Barron and Linda Darling Hammond finds that:
• Students learn more deeply when they can apply classroom-gathered knowledge to real-world problems, and when they to take part in projects that require sustained engagement and collaboration.
• Active learning practices have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable
• Students are most successful when they are taught how to learn as well as what to learn

We see more and more reports from industry and employers nominating skills such as critical thinking, communication skills, problem solving, initiative – these again confirm for me the need to be explicit about developing the 6 C’s – Deep Learning Competencies.

Shifting Rich Learning to Deep Learning revolves around knowledge construction, and about application of this knowledge in new contexts. It’s about intentionally building learning processes that allow us, and our learners, to navigate unknown learning territory, and emerge with fresh understandings, ways of being, and banks of knowledge that lead to action.

And for me this in one of the most exciting aspects of the project – the opportunity to connect and collaborate with other leaders and teachers, and then connect our learners in work that means something, work that is about learning about each other and acting together to address real issues that affect us all. Developing the 6C’s is critical to continuing to build a productive and effective global society, and doing this work with likeminded colleagues and countries is a huge lever in its sustained success.

Deep Learning must have this authentic base of engagement for both us as teachers and our learners.
An explicit and intentional focus on designing to develop the 6 C’s leverages Rich Learning and shifts it toward Deep Learning. Creating the conditions to support, measure and test this line of thought remains a challenge.
But Rich Learning alone won’t create tomorrow’s astronauts.



Image source:

making meaning of a MOOC

Several colleagues and I recently engaged in a MOOC focussing on Collaborative Problem Solving. we have been debating and deconstructing the experience, in particular around the mode of delivery.  I think we have consensus around the value of open content, but are grappling with  the manner in which we might best “make meaning” in our own contexts.mooc

So I used the word “social” to describe how I learn…maybe  that’s not the best description, but as I reflect on my own learning, it’s optimised when I can reflect on inputs, and then make meaning in concert with others. This is not always a linear, or indeed synchronous process, but the notion of sharing and voicing perspectives enriches the learning significantly when compared to solo efforts.

ZPD has some relevance here; high value making meaning is dependant on informed, focussed thinking and dialogue – some from outside the box, sure, but commonly aligned in terms of focus or output or outcome.

This is where the breadth of MOOC discussion forums challenges me. I respect the fact that there are many motivators for MOOC participation, and equally as many diversities across participants. What strikes me is the inherent potential to get lost in forums for days……without really leveraging learning.

The MOOC model won’t be for everyone; time, commitment, and personal engagement may all affect engagement, BUT they are free, open and can offer wonderful opportunities to access content AND  learning.

Can we structure them better? On a local scale, the our Tasmanian Professional Learning Institute is grappling with personalising engaging and high yield online learning….seeking to make it more that a series of lectures down the camera. We hope to dip our toes in the water with this complex mode in the near future, and it will be really interesting to evaluate our success in facilitating the making of meaning in virtual environments.

New Pedagogies for Deep Learning Foundations

Having facilitated our 4th and 5th days of work in Tasmania, I really began to sense a consolidation of our shared understandings. These workshops devoted time to hearing each others’ stories, and further contextualising the heavy content base we have previously worked through. My model of the core New Pedagogies is becoming more simple with time!npdlmodel

The synergy between elements is also becoming more evident. The deep learning progressions are in a way the measure to see if all our other interventions around building capacity are working. If we have invested in developing understanding of the core aspects of NPDL – teachers as activators, new learning partnerships, student agency, fusing new and existing pedagogy and learning conditions – we would expect to see growth in student capabilities, as measured on the Deep Learning Competency Framework, over time.

There is a strong synergy between all of the tools; one that allows us to unpack and analyse components and their effect on learning, but also to bring them all together as a cohesive approach to teaching for deep learning.

Education PLus

I first heard Michael Fullan speak about Education Plus in the first New Pedagogies for Deep Learning institute Hong Kong November 2013. The notion intrigued me – it seemed to me  that he was talking about a social or societal value add component to existing education. The idea that we can lever the future return on educational outcomes by teaching for growth outside the cognitive space, and in a way that builds moral and ethical capacity. By consciously building capacity to recognise and work in an innovative, “adjacent possible” kind of arena, we are building the kind of social capital that is future focussed and sustainable.edplus

In Michael’s paper “Education Plus” (available here) he defines Education Plus as

“….not simply about learning 21st century skills in isolation from doing, nor is it about acquiring basic skills and knowledge out of context. Instead, it is about collaborative learning through reflection in action and on action in order to become better at negotiating the messy, fuzzy, dilemma‐ridden context of real‐world life and work with positive impact. It is about developing an attitude of mind, a set of values and the personal, interpersonal and cognitive capabilities identified repeatedly in studies of successful early career graduates and those leaders who have helped create more harmonious, productive and sustainable workplaces and societies.”

The New Pedagogies, 6 C’s and Ethical Entrepreneurialism are interconnected in a way that reads refreshingly simply. I like the way the threads through New Pedagogies are becoming clearer, yet more tightly interwoven.


Happy to be hosting this twitter account this week. Hope to add value to the conversations, and discover or uncover new insights.

Please check it out @EduTweetOz or

Edutweetoz is an Australian social media movement.

Our mission:

  • to celebrate and share the real work of educators from all sectors and provide an alternative to the negative perceptions of teachers popularised in mainstream media.
  • to build a community of educators from all sectors and states of Australia. We want to bring together teachers from pre-schools to universities, from private and public sectors, as well as those who support us in fields such as educational research.
  • to facilitate dialogue and share our journeys and promote excellence.

How it works:

  • Each week a different educator will take responsiblity for tweeting. We hope that people will use the space to share their experiences, pose questions, engage in dialogue about current educational issues and help each other out.
  • Guest tweeters and other educators will be showcased on this blog to share their passion for education with the wider community.