July 25, 2014

A Perfect Mess Part 2 – organised thinking

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A previous post investigated the notion of ‘ A Perfect Mess’, discussing the need for students to be organised in their actions and in their thinking. This Post will investigate the question asked at the end of the previous publication concerning how students can be more organised in their thinking.

Robert Fritz in his book, The Path of Least Resistance, suggests strategies  to become the creative force in your own life.  He outlines five steps for the  process of creating which can act as a framework  to help students organise their thinking.  An investigation of the steps in the context of student thinking about completing an assignment or writing a practice HSC essay under test conditions  and a Year 10 integrated learning class activity may be useful.

Firstly, a student needs to conceive of the result they want when they undertake a new activity or task.  Girls are provided with an assessment notification, guideline or syllabus statement which outlines what is required for them to complete a task.  Using this frame work the girls should decide the outcome they want by pondering the examples needed to answer the question set, decide on how many words they want write and articulate the perspective they wish to take in their argument.

Secondly, they should next take a mental audit of the resources and information they currently possess. This involves thinking about their understanding of the issues and ascertaining if there are gaps in their knowledge and comprehension. This involves talking to people, reading widely, looking at their class notes and discerning what is missing  in their research.

Thirdly, once they know what they want to do and have audited their current understanding and resources it is imperative that they now take action.  This may involve further research into key issues about which they are unsure,  seeking advice from their peers or teachers, developing a reference list of key resources, collecting academic articles and media articles and the taking of relevant notes in a succinct manner.

Fourthly, learning the rhythm of the creative learning processinvolves students developing self-awareness concerning their work patterns.  Whether at home or in the boarding school, students  would benefit from thinking about when and where they best research, read and take notes or quietly start the process of writing. They will soon learn if they work and write best before dinner,  in the quiet of the evening or early in the morning if an early riser.

The fifth step is to create momentum by consciously switching on to the  rhythm of their work patterns. This involves focusing on  the time frame left before the task is due, phasing out additional research, completing notes required, processing  what the question is asking, writing up sections of the assignment/essay, rewriting sections with greater analysis making sure the bibliography is up-to- date and completing the task with time to spare.

By way of an example, recently in Year 10 Integrated Learning,  staff aimed to approach a brain storming session for topic selection for a research topic, which is the focus of work in Term 3, from a different angle.  The staff conceived the idea that they wanted the girls to examine 19 topics, sit in groups to brainstorm ideas on several topics and develop a suitable mechanism to share the ideas.

To achieve this the staff made an audit of existing processes of collaboration which involved investigating the traditional approach to brain storming using butchers paper and selecting a learning technology which might help this learning process. In the process of taking action a twofold approach was adopted. Initially,  the group would work around paper to provide an environment of discussion and sharing ideas by all writing on paper prior to a nominated person entering the information on a shared Google document.

When the students started this process all of Year 10 were in the Gonzaga Barry Centre  open learning space, they self-selected themselves into 15-20 small groups, with a few groups preferring tables and others the  comfort of the floor near heaters.  The girls quickly settled into the rhythm of the activity.  Topics were discussed, A3 sheets of paper were used to construct flow charts, more topics were allocated and amomentum of creating had been established.  Before long we  had an 8 page shared Google document that was being populated before our eyes on the data projector.  At the end of the lesson staff and students discussed the next steps of the creative learning process which involved investigating in closer detail specific topics the girls wanted to research and write about throughout Term 3.

Learning in schools continue to make appropriate use of traditional learning practices while exploring and adding value to learning by specifically encouraging student organisation in terms of what they do and their thinking. This process is supplemented and supported with the prudent use of learning technologies, a scaffold approach to group collaboration and experiences in assisting student organisation in their learning.

The goal is for students to be organised in their thinking by thinking through what they are doing and need to do.  Organised thinking reflects the ability to conceive an end result, taking stock of what currently exists, taking action, learning the rhythm of the creative learning process and establishing momentum to complete the activity.

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July 21, 2014

Give and Take Part 3: The ripple effect

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Give and Take Part 3 – The ripple effect

George Meyer – the Simpsons. There is widespread consensus that Meyer was the most important force behind the show’s success.

Collaboration and creative character -  Meyer wrote a lot of humor one called the Army Man and shared it freely and widely.  It came out the same time as the Simpsons started.

Flying Solo –some people work independently and are very successful.  They work collaboratively and are very successful but when they try and go solo they are less successful.  Grant cites research of the efficiency of surgeons who work in interdependent  teams rather than independently is different hospitals.  Their surgery  got better when they worked in teams that worked together.  They did not get better when they stayed in a specific hospital.  If they moved with their teams there was no decline in performance.

I wish I could hate you – givers reject the notion that interdependence is weak, rather they see it as a source of strength, a way to harness the skills of multiple people for greater good.  Mayer  said “I just want to be a good soldier…when people were not excited that is when I felt I had to step up my game.”He surrendered himself to the show.  Intuitively he understood that the best thing for him was for the show to be as good as possible – putting the groups’ goals and mission first.  He had a code of honour – Show up. Work hard. Be kind. What one person said about him: “You don’t think of him as a competitor. He’s someone you can think of on a higher plane, and can trust creatively.”  In the theory it is known as idiosyncrasy credits.

Claiming the lion share of the credit- Meyer had a reputation in the inner circles but toiled in anonymity in the outside world.  By giving away credit he comprised his visibility.  Time would prove Meyer right, despite his short term sacrifices.  Grant goes on to tell the story of Jonas Salk and his work on developing the polio vaccine in 1948.  He did not acknowledge the work of the others in the production of the vaccine and this haunted him for the rest of his career.  He saw himself as independent not interdependent.

The responsibility bias – is exaggerating our own contributions. George Meyer has been overcome the responsibility bias  and in the background has been responsible for “d’oh” an event that causes mental anguish, “cromulent” describing something that is fine, “tomacco” a cross breed of tomato and tobacco and “meh” the expression of pure indifference.  In the Simpsons rewrite room he tried to create an environment  where everybody feels they can contribute – this is known as psychological safety.

The Perspective gap- when you are not experiencing a psychologically or physically intense state, we dramatically underestimate how much it will affect us. It is a freezing room for 5 hours and sits in a hot room for 5 hours.  Then put your hand in a cold and warm bucket of water.  In collaborations takers rarely cross  the perspective gap while givers can put themselves in other people’s shoes.  When you buy a wedding present do you buy your own one you think they will like or buy from the registered list? Research shows that when we take others perspectives we tend to stay within our own frame of reference asking how would I feel in that situation.  We imagine the joy they people will experience when they get the gift but his is not the same joy  as the recipient as they have a different set of preferences.  So to effectively help colleagues people need to step outside their frame of reference.

If you are in a small pond don’t alienate people.  Takers can be a genius but not be genius makers.  Meyer had the opposite effect on collaborators – it rippled, cascaded and spread to people around him.


Professional: – there is a time to fly solo and a time to fly with the group collaborating and moving forward together.  It is refreshing to read ideas that make common sense that are backed up through solid research as with the surgeons’  example and the perceptive gap. .

Professional and life:- George Meyer, as portrayed by  Adam Grant just seems like a decent human being  who has  his life and professional values in sync.

Creative process:-  would the Simpson writers really have thought that,  “d’oh” an event that causes mental anguish, “cromulent” describing something that is fine, “tomacco” a cross breed of tomato and tobacco and “meh” the expression of pure indifference, would catch on like they did? Unlikely – so success needs others to buy into the creation.

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July 16, 2014

Give and Take Part 2 – Peacock and the panda

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Part 2 Peacock and the panda


Spotting a taker in giver’s clothes – He tells the story of two successful businessman and how they are represented on the business Prospectus.  The taker has a whole page picture of the CEO the other has a thumbnail picture with other information about the company.

The transparent network – Adam Forest Rifkin is the giant panda of programming.  He is Fortunes best networker.  He has   more LinkedIn connections to the 640 powerful people on Fortune’s lists. IN 2001 he was a fan of Blogger and it had run out of money and he gave them some money for one of his start up – Know Now. The money kept them afloat and the founder went on to  cofound Twitter.

Waking the sleeping giant – Rifkin liked an emerging band.  They needed a fansite – the band was Cold Play and he connected to Spencer who recently sold the search engine Excite. He did not know that at the time.  Rifkin believes in the strength of weak ties.  It’s tough to ask weak ties for help although they are the faster route to new leads, we don’t always feel comfortable reaching out to them.  His secret of deceptively simple: he asked thoughtful questions and listened with remarkable patience.

Dormant ties –  “ adults accumulate thousands of relationships over their lifetimes” but prior to the internet.  The dormant ties provide more novel information than the current contacts.  They have gone on different journeys and they still have feelings for trust.  So reconnecting is easy.

The five minute favour – Adam Rifkin does not trade value he adds value.  His giving is governed by a simple rule – the five minute favour for anyone.  How does Adam avoid the tradeoff  between giving and productivity? He gives more.


Our ability to connect and collaborate with more people has been enhanced through the internet and in particular LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Not so much awakening the sleeping giant but I have often found in teaching that things come from left and right field after a decision has been made.  You do need to look and listen.

So true all that is said in relation to weak and dormant ties – always good to activate these in school holidays. .

Recently two Iranian ladies asked for directions to the train station to go to Katoomba while I was sitting in Pitt Street Mall reading this book. Instead of just pointing in a general direction I walked with them till they could see Town Hall  Station.  Ironically,  I put into action an idea from the book before I read  the five minute favour.


Will have to re read again to find the peacock J

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July 10, 2014

Digital learning at Loreto Normanhurst

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Digital Learning @ Loreto

At Loreto Normanhurst, through Digital Pathways, learning is closely linked with the way students engage in their digital world.  Our workshops, presentations and planning are based on research and adaption to the Loreto learning experience.  Digital Pathways at Loreto has an important learning component and this is reflected in some of the ideas of Bruce Dixon of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation (AALF).

He suggests modern learners have the ability to access high quality content whenever and in whatever format they  need it,  have the ability to  form networks and participate in highly interconnected groups, have the ability save and retrieve information in a variety of formats, have the ability to reuse and build upon the work of others, have the ability to quickly find feedback from multiple sources,  have the ability to generate large amounts of data about our technological based activities and have the ability to operate in the same spaces  as experts and professionals.

It is endorsing to listen to a presentation from an expert in the field which reflects Loreto Normanhurst’s best practice, employing strategies to enhance 21st Century Learning. In particular we can explore four approaches adopted at Loreto.

The first is how we plan and evolve engagement with digitalcontent.  We make use of wikis, blogs, a range of web tools and key school platforms such as Edublogs. For example, Year 8 Integrated students have their personal school Edublog which acted as the e-portfolio on a unit of work of learning in the context of the Music Festival. This site can be carried through to other units of work throughout the year.

The second approach is how we ethically and safely remixcontent from the web which develops a culture of sharing  at the same time as showing respect for  and understanding of both creators and consumers of web content. Students curate existing content and create their own material in the process of learning. For example, teachers make use of TED Talks and educational YouTube clips to supplement and support active learning in the classroom. Also teachers at Loreto, through the Loreto 5 program,   “flip” the classroom through the production of videos, which students can access in their own time to teach topics or undertake revision.

The third involves encouraging students to have a digital learning identity.  Digital identity is more than how students engage in social media on the web.  We aim that the student’s presence on the web reflects that they are digital learners.  For example in the Unit of work “My Brilliant Career” in Year 10  we explore LinkedIn and the notion they need to develop a professional digital identity. For example, a recently graduated student was very excited that in a digital audit of her online reputation, while at university, highlighted her Extension History blog.  She was very pleased that her digitally identity reflected that she was a student of history.

The fourth approach which is evolving involves digitalactivism in learning.  The digital world has provided new platforms to become actively engaged citizens consistent with the values of a Loreto education.  ‘Actions speak louder than Like buttons’ and the girls may engage in active learning contributing through Facebook groups, TakingITGlobal or Project Futures, with which the school has  closely identified. Teachers naturally have to take an active role in this sort of activism from both a safety and learning perspective.

The digital world is providing a paradigm shift in the way we live, work and learn. In life and work we do things differently compared to only a few years ago and learning is no different. Fortunately we are working at Loreto Normanhurst to understand and develop best practice to shape our digital learners.


Mr Martin Pluss

Dean of Learning

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Give and Take by Adam Grant: Part 1 Good returns

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Give and Take by Adam Grant

Sometimes I come across a book that I need to read a few times.  Adam Grant’s Give and Take is the book for 2014.  The second time I read it I used the features of iBook to highlight the key points. Now I am working through the key points which have grabbed my attention and plan to write and reflect upon them in a series of blog posts.  Here is the starting post.

There are nine chapters :

  1. Good returns – the dangers and rewards  of giving more than your get
  2. The Peacock and the panda – how givers takers and matchers build networks
  3. The ripple effect – collaboration and the dynamics of giving and taking credit
  4. Finding the diamond in the rough – the fact and fiction of recognizing  potential
  5. The power of powerless communication – how to be modest and influence people
  6. The heart of motivation maintenance – why some givers burn out but others are on fire
  7. Chump change – overcoming the doormat effect
  8. The scrooge shift why a cocker team, a finger print and a name can tilt  us in the other direction
  9. Out of the shadows

Good returns


David Hornik – pitching to investors.  Good guys finish last or do they?

Takers – like to give more than they take. In order to succeed they feel they need to be better than others.

Giver – they prefer to give more than they take. They are other focused paying more attention to what other people want from them.

Matchers – strive to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. They operate on the principle of fairness. When they help others  they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity or the exchange of favours.

Sampson story – ran for state legislature and missed out.  Then went into business, partner died and took the debt and business failed. Ran for state legislature again got in at 25 years old and at 40 years old ran for  national Senate against two Supreme Court justices and more privileged. He was ahead and then plummeted. Sampsons ‘main concern was not getting elected but stopping another candidate he felt  had questionable practices – bribery. He was plagued with pathological giving.  He lost and the man he was worried about got in and turned out to indicted for fraud.  He then went on to help the other candidate win.  To add to this Sampson could not bring himself to defend clients if he felt they were guilty. He then tried to get into the Senate two more times and finally made it – xxxxxxxxx was his name.

“Being a giver is not good for the 100 yard dash, but it is valuable in a marathon. “

Financial advisor and scap metal worker story – took the job that no one wanted because he was a scrap metal worker.  He had a shed of expensive cars and other assets.

Research example: takers want wealth, power, pleasure and winning and givers want helpfulness, responsibility, social justice and compassion.  Giving is risky when dealing with takers.


Give and you will receive.  Often we hear statements like these but at times it is hard to take a longer term perspective to see the benefits of giving.

All I know is that in life we , and I am no exception, feel happy when we give.

After I read this chapter I was hooked with the book.  I like to  learn by reading about the stories linked to research and apply the ideas to my work (teaching), life (life) and interests ( running) and there is plenty to apply.

There is always something related to running in what I read – not that I try to find it.

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