Robust discussions

I thought i would answer, for the first time FB’s question, “What’s on your mind?”  and Twitter’s “Whats Happening?” as I watch Fox 601.

Is there any merit to robust discussion? Just as an observation there seems to be a fair bit of it at the moment.  Take your pick from Bronwyn Bishop and entitlements , Dermott Brereton/ Rebecca Wilson over Adam Goodes, Geoff Toovey and his treatment as Manly coach or coal mining in the Liverpool Plains.

I watch current affairs and sport on Fox 601 and there has been plenty of robust discussion which I see as people talking over each other in some cases and measured diplomatic point making in discussions in others.

How do you feel after a robust discussion – diplomatic or otherwise? I don’t know too many people who feel good after a robust discussion even if they made their point or not. How do other people in the same discussion feel after a robust discussion? Likewise, I don’t think they come out of it feeling good once again irrespective of how their viewpoint was received. I might be wrong.

Which method of robust discussion wins through? Take the scenario where there are equally valid well argued viewpoints. So I guess this is where the personality of the participants come into play. There is the person who quietly providers a valid argument only to be knocked back by the louder perhaps equally valid argument. There is the person who is dogmatic and takes no prisoners and others just back down. Then here are those who are collaborative, give and take and reach a compromise position.

So why bother? I guess there is a decision and action which comes from the discussion which impacts an organisation and other people. I am sure there was a robust discussion in the Labour Party when they argued not to stop the boats 5 years ago and recently similar discussions when they agreed to stopping the boats if they are in government in 2016.  Likewise,  I am sure there is robust discussion in the liberal/nationals party state and federal concerning  the proposed mining of the Liverpool a plains. Time will tell who benefits and not from the decision.

So decisions made from robust discussion may or may not be the best decision for all concerned. I now have more questions than answers but in my mind it comes back to how you feel after the discussion.

Can you live with the manner in which you participated in a robust discussion?  Either you come out feeling 100% personally and yet compromising on the viewpoint. Or you emerge not feeling 100% personally  even though the outcome is of benefit to the majority?

Sydney Real Estate

Another angle on in living in Sydney. First world issues.

The real estate market is really interesting at the moment. It is a different era. I saw last night the list of suburbs with the biggest increase in prices in Sydney.

If you are fortunate enough to live in one of these suburbs there may be a dilemma. The risk is staying too long in a house you know you are going to move out of in the near future that has gone up in price ahead of the other suburbs which are yet to go up in price.

So for a person in that situation it is possible that selling now is the right option because other places you might buy have not gone up (yet) proportionally to your current suburb’s recent high increase.

If you wait to sell the proportional advantage you may get might be reduced.

Also I have read more people not in relationships are buying house and units together as a friends/business deal. Also as part of the share economy like über air B andB and Go Get, people are buying houses to share.

I suspect some of us in my generation are living in houses we could not afford to buy.

In a different era we need to think differently.

Repair the World

Repair the world

Each time I go to Hornsby I park the car in the car park on the old side of the township and walk over the railway and the foot bridge over George Street. As I left the bridge a few months ago I spotted a homeless man who had set himself up with gear to keep warm a bed and was doing art work. I thought to myself that was a good spot to stay essentially out of the elements.

A few months later I was back at the shops and wanted to take a photo. Though I felt guilty about this as I walked down the stairs pretending to look at my phone I quickly took a photo. I just thought it would be a good photo for my interest in Geography.

Homeless Hornsby

A few months later on the routine walk to the shops the man was gone and the area was caged off with a sign from Hornsby Council and the NSW Government explaining this was the site of a new railway pedestrian bridge. There was no reason for the caged off area. Clearly the homeless person had been moved on. With much less guilt I took another photo.

Hornsby homeless c
I was now evolving a story I could share with my Geography students.

A few months later a woman was found dead on one of the trails I run on in Hornsby and a week later I saw an article disclosing that the deceased woman was homeless. Though there was no causal connection I was thinking about the relationship between the two photos and the article.

Homeless Hornsby b

I combined all three into a twitter and Facebook post with a neutral comment or statement of concern.

There are a lot more homeless people in the Hornsby Shire now, from Brooklyn to the bush behind the pool. Perhaps they are being moved on from the CBD or the GFC is still spreading its tentacles. Either way it is a issue for the local area.

Now this is where I am struggling. I want to make a difference and don’t seem to have the courage. I am involved in many worthwhile projects which help others at school. A close friend kindly said my role to make a difference is to help shape the attitudes of the students I teach so they can do the doing of making a difference. This gives me a false sense of satisfaction.

Increasingly over the last 12 months I have been overwhelmed with the scale of issues affecting the world in which we live and it is just daunting to know where to start to make a difference. To cope I looked inward and started thinking about engaging more locally. To this end I committed to attending the Hornsby Shire Council meeting with the personal brief of just observing. Having attended half a dozen meetings I have learnt a lot and am trying to shape a path forward to make a difference.

This evening I attended a meeting at school where we were asked what good news can we offer the dis-regarded. At first we struggled to find anything then we talked a bit more about some of the different things groups, organisations and individuals do such as the CEO sleep out.

To sum up – this as raised more questions than answers for me. The questions we were asked tonight circled around what can we do? For me it crystallised the need for local engagement and empowerment of people to know they can make a difference and do something in their local area.

Perhaps I can take a three minute time slot at a council meeting to make a case for the council to look after the homeless in the park near the pool instead of moving them on. My issue is challenging myself to put my self out there, commit to an opinion and move beyond just thinking raising awareness is making a difference.

Anything to repair the world.

The Papal Encyclical and technology- you need to do what you can do

Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of Holy Father Francis On Care For Our Common Home sheds insights into theological ideas as well as incisive understanding of social, economic, scientific, educational, technological and environmental issues for our common home.

The geographer in me wanted to read it in the holidays to see how it stacked up geographically. I really enjoyed the 184 pages and this post is actually about what I picked up about technology.

The Pope refers to technology from the point of view of creativity and power (Paragraph 102). Creativity is a product of technology which assists humans in a range of areas including medicine, engineering and education. Alternatively, when technology is concentrated in the hands of a few, through the power that may be exerted, some people are disenfranchised and consequently inequalities, inequities and social injustices might occur. This is often expressed as a digital divide.

Not all schools have equal access to learning technologies for a range of reasons and this troubles me. There are also schools which have suitable if not over access to learning technologies and from a world view this troubles me as well. We all work in a range of schools and have to work with what we have got.

In my early years of teaching I personally purchased the school’s first laser printer because I could see the benefit.  I know plenty of teachers in the early years (and now) who have purchased their own data projectors, photocopiers flip cameras etc.  Back to my story.

The school saw the value of the technology but was not yet in a financial position to act on it. I just had  to do what needed to be done to enhance the learning of my students. Personally, I did not mind having access to the printer as well :-).

Later in my career I have been fortunate to be in well resourced schools; likewise seeing the benefit of learning technologies and the prudent planned investment to support learning technologies.

Sadly in education  it is  is not a level playing field when it comes to technology and as an educator you just have to do what you can do in the circumstances that lay before you.

There can be potholes on any path we walk. We should be careful how we use the technology; recognising it’s potential, be cognizant of its pitfalls and open to future opportunities.  For example, the concerns of social media are well documented as are the benefits. The often discussed information overload can be managed through critical thinking and the prudent selection of data.

Students have to be careful to not identify themselves when they use open access digital tools and still be digital citizens in a digital world. They have to understand the web tools they might use, so they can trouble shoot when issues arise and hopefully help others. Finally in terms of basics they need to be proactive in backing up their work, learn how to be digitally organised because at the moment this is what is important in their current world of learning.


To conclude with words from His Holiness:

“Humanity has entered a new era in which our technical prowess has brought us to a crossroads. (Sic)” (Paragraph 102)


Often this expression is also referred to as Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shift or colloquially as ‘game changer’. What does this crossroad look like? For example, are we at a crossroad when students will not be allowed to bring their watch (due to the iWatch) to assessment tasks? This is current practice at some universities.

If we are at a crossroads then our goal should be  for students to be well  positioned to embrace what the path offers.  Alternatively, if not at the crossroads, we need to be on a path of growth and evolution; preparing for what the future of learning with technology holds for our students.

ELLA “Everybody’s Lifelong Learning App”

Earlier this year through my PLN I spotted a grass roots enterprise evolving for the professional development of teachers.

ELLA the “Everybody’s Lifelong Learning App”.  It is a resource for professional development developed by teachers for teachers.

Until a few months ago ELLA was in its beta stage now it is now more developed and is well worth a closer look and for you to consider sharing with your staff. There are now more than 600 events listed.







Below are a couple of screenshots to give you an idea of how it now looks.

Ella 1


You can see below how the site is set up  into Accreditation, curriculum, events and location categories. The blog will be worth monitoring.

ella 2