Tony Gurr

Archive for the ‘Guest BLOGGERS’ Category

The LISTENing Educator…

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities on 21/12/2012 at 2:38 am
by Laurence Raw
Listening (doggy ears)
It’s amazing what can be learned from isolated conversations.
I was talking to three separate sets of LEARNers this week in different departments, as well as from different educational levels (under- and postgraduate, as well as trainee educators).  All of them had plenty of work to complete for their courses – assignments, lesson-plans, assessments and the like.
Yet many of them admitted to finding such tasks extremely difficult, chiefly because they did not quite understand what was expected of them by their “educational peers”.  Did they have to produce ‘scholarly’ pieces, using examples taken from secondary texts; or were they expected to give their own opinions on the material?  What kind of criteria did educators use to distinguish a ‘good’ from a ‘bad’ submission, and how could LEARNers work towards meeting them?  And what kind of feedback could learners expect, apart from being given a grade?
The question of assessment is a complex one; too complex, in fact, for a short blog-post.
However I got the distinct impression that no one was actually listening to one another.  That term “to listen” is a complex one: it doesn’t just involve decoding words and sentences, but rather participating in a process described thus by Richard Sennett in a recent book: “though we may use the same words, we cannot say we are speaking of the same things; the aim is to come eventually towards a common understanding.”
It is that “common understanding” that is conspicuously absent from many classrooms.
The CLASSROOM - weapons of mass instruction
How can we improve the listening environment?  The public speaking consultant Lisa B. Marshall offers three effective solutions: 
1.       Tune In.  Make sure you give listeners your undivided attention.  Turn off your “mind chatter” and look at how they react to what you say.  If you feel they haven’t understood a point you have said, then try and clarify it.  Or better still, find another means to explain it – for example, by writing it down.
2.       Show You are Listening.  This is something many educators find difficult, especially if they are accustomed to monopolizing the learning environment.  The key is to concentrate on the words you hear and – perhaps more importantly – understand the body language signals you see.  Are learners smiling?  Are they talking amongst themselves? Are the words and body language congruent?
3.       Understand What You’ve Just Heard and/or Seen.  Educators need to translate and interpret their learners’ reactions.  They have to decide what they mean.  We all create meaning based on our own experiences, but sometimes that’s not enough.  We need to ask open-ended questions to confirm our understanding, and try to eliminate possible miscommunications.
21 TOBB Seminar (05 July 2012)
Such steps might seem rather obvious (aren’t all educators supposed to listen to their learners?) but it seems that their significance is frequently overlooked. However difficult it might be, we need to pay less attention to content, and concentrate instead on how we can communicate better.
Guy Claxton believes that this is the key to acquiring “learning power” for educators and learners alike.  By listening to others, we can learn how to ask better questions, and thereby learn how to co-operate with one another.  This is essential to learning: in this kind of environment, everyone can ask themselves what they don’t understand and why.  If they can’t understand something, they ask more questions – not only of themselves, but also of other members of the group.
What we’re (really) talking about here is a redefinition of the relationship between educators and their learners. Effective listening means treating learners on equal terms; to ask questions of them, as means to help them develop the confidence to ask questions themselves.
Wouldn’t it be great if more educators could shed some of their pride in their knowledge and/or status and actually initiate this process?
Laurence Raw
Baskent University.
Department of English, Ankara, Turkey.
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
@laurenceraw (Twitter)

The “LEARNing Academic” Vs. The “LEARNing Publisher”…

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning on 06/12/2012 at 1:00 pm


…and never the twain shall meet?


A few days ago, one of my favourite “guest-bloogers” (actually, I’m begining to think he has become a permanentsquatter” on the ‘ole blog) – Laurence, did a great post for me.

The post was entitled – Going to the Dogs!

Now, this was probably all my fault…because I had suggested (in an earlier post) that he might enjoy the company of those wicked, wicked “ELT dogmatistas we hear so much about these days.


Laurence is not an ELT expert per sebut he works with groups of “future ELT Teachers”…to improve their speaking and communication skills. I have seen him in action – he does a grand job!

In his guest post, he did a wonderful job of reflecting on how his own philosophy of LEARNing and TEACHing “mapped” onto many of the tenets of Dogme ELT – as personified in Teaching UNplugged (by Luke Meddings  and  Scott Thornbury  – 2009).

However, what was really interesting came a bit later


A “publisher”! 

Yes, a “real” Sith Lordcalled Tim, read the post and added a wonderful comment.


Now, I’m sorry – but who the hell would take a Sith Lord called “Darth Tim” seriously?

Dark Side (vaders cookies)

I would…now!


Both Laurence and Tim talked about the “A-ah” moments they are experiencing…no, “living” – as LEARNing takes a bigger, and bigger role in how both of them “do business”.

Tim, for example, noted:

Discovering the ethos of Dogme and how it puts learning at the centre of its thinking has altered my perception as a publisher well and truly.

Even Luke….sorry… Scott  picked up on that juiciest of comments and a few of us had a little tweet-fest!


Eureka (TG blog ver)

I also had a little “A-ah” moment…of my own!


I wondered (acaba)…what would happen if I put this LEARNing Academic and this LEARNing Publisher together…in the same room!


Red flag and Bull


BUT…I had a wee problem!

Those of you that know the blog…and Laurenceknow that he lives and works in Ankara.

Like me – he is a hanım köylü!

Tim, on the other hand…while being very involved in H.Ed projects for the Turkish “market”…is based in Cambridge – and is very much the sert erkek


Wot to do?


What about if we put them in a virtual “coffee shop”with a strong cup of Turkish kahve (“sade”, of course)…I thunked to meself.

Would it turn out like this:


…or would something “beautiful” happen? 

Judge for yourself!





Laurence Raw & Tim Gifford


Time to LEARN


Laurence: I’m intrigued that we should be meeting like this. I’ve not actually met an ELT publisher before; my stereotype of them is that they’re more than happy to sell their existing materials to unsuspecting customers, but less willing to listen to them – unless, of course, they happen to be big names who can sell books. But it’s nice that we’ve got together to discuss the Dogme movement, even though I’m still not sure exactly what it signifies. Any views?

Tim: … in a way the Dogme movement could be described as being like a cup of coffee: it’s rich and invigorating. It offers both stimulation and comfort to the educators that enjoy it. But it’s also prone to being branded and commercialised by “my kind” as another edu-commodity when in fact everyone’s preferences and contexts are different. Imposing educational ‘tastes’ doesn’t benefit anyone, in the same way that assuming how people like their coffee isn’t going to get great results.

Laurence:  Only if publishers use the name all the time, without actually investigating what it signifies.  Since writing my last post, I’ve been mentioning Dogme to both learners and educators; their initial reaction is one of mystification, as if it were some new kind of technique or strategy that departs from prevailing approaches to language teaching.  But when you get down to it, we’re not really talking rocket science here; just a re-emphasis on learning and collaboration, rather than an overreliance on textbook learning.  Perhaps you’ve got a different view?

Tim: That’s what I’m getting at. My past experience of ELT publishing has been the “mass production” approach which entailed including gratuitous references to assessment frameworks or developments in education within our products in order to make them more attractive to teachers and directors. There was very little consideration given to actually understanding what these materials or concepts were or what they’d mean to the student sitting at their desk in a classroom halfway around the world. But that was “how it was done”.

Laurence:  Which strikes me as exceptionally intriguing. In my youth, I always assumed that a textbook was there to help learners find out “how it was done” – whether it was learning French, doing comprehension exercises, or finding out about biology (a subject I was never very good at).  It seems that, from the view of conventional publishing, a textbook is rather like the Emperor’s New Clothes; so long as it looks good, and draws on prevailing – some might say modish – frameworks, then it might sell and hence prove suitable for publishers.  This is why I am so against the idea of textbooks per se.  They are often an impediment to, rather than a resource for learning.  But I’d really like to know: what is it about Dogme – or the strategies associated with it – that proves so attractive for you?


LEARNing not a newspaper


Tim:  What struck me as I started reading about Dogme was that there was a learner involved in this arrangement who was having assumptions made about their learning needs and behaviours without them being consulted at all. The textbooks, materials and references we were piling into these learning environments weren’t doing anything to assist the student in their learning journey, and were in fact perpetuating the “course book is king” principle.

Laurence:  But isn’t that what publishers need to do in order to ensure a profit? What interests me above all about dogme-inspired learning approaches is that they are “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” in conception.  Your term “piling into” is a significant one, suggesting that in some ways publishers are trying to impose from the top, rather than listening to the views from the bottom. I’m not being critical of these policies; it’s what all publishers do, whether they’re involved in ELT or any other branch of learning.  So, how do you think you can accommodate Dogme-inspired principles into future publishing strategies?


UNcover LEARNing FQs


Tim:  It’s essential that publishers “walk the walk” alongside the teachers and directors they publish for as well the students that are, ultimately, the end users in this educational process. Rather than creating and selling content and components to shore up a brand or to “glamify” the annual sales catalogue, they need to immerse themselves in the realities and motivations of the learners they are going to be in contact with via their materials. The key words here are responsibilityresponsiveness and respect; publishers need to recognise and fulfil the responsibility that their position requires, and appreciate that their involvement in the process doesn’t finish once the order has been delivered.

Laurence: I think it’s necessary to go beyond these terms, to be honest with you. I really believe that publishers, just like many educators, have a sketchy grasp of the “realities and motivations” of learners in different contexts, chiefly because they don’t want to listen. “Responsiveness” only comes about if everyone is prepared to be responsive to everyone else in a communal situation. I’ve attended so many conferences where publishers’ representatives exist solely to sell books to teachers, and don’t really take the trouble to listen to what is being discussed, especially in informal discussions. The publishers I really like working with are those who take the trouble to listen, to criticize, to negotiate, and thereby reshape the ideas of those that they try to serve. Sometimes this can lead to what diplomats call “a full and frank discussion” but at the end of it, both readers and publishers end up having learned something about themselves, their approaches, and the validity of what they are doing. In other words, we’re back to what I believe lies at the heart of Dogme learning principles – negotiation and cooperation are useful in themselves as ways of advancing knowledge, understanding, and more significantly, LEARNing – a question of adapting oneself to changing educational conditions.


Learnacy ZONE


Tim: Absolutely, and that’s LEARNing that can and must happen for all involved, I think.

Laurence: So we are on the same page! But, I have to ask – as a publisher – what do you think “Dogme-inspired” materials should “look” like?

Tim: Ahhh, now there’s a question…


Questions (O'Conner Quote) NEW


Going to the DOGS!

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, The Paradigm Debate on 02/12/2012 at 9:40 am


I always loved that phrasebut not the idea of “greyhound racing”.

Aren’t the idioms of the English language bloody amazing? And, some people say we do not need “culture” to really LEARN a langwich


Over the past few years (certainly since the publication of Teaching UNplugged by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury (in 2009) – lots of ELT professionals have been “going to the DOGME” more and more

Of course, going to the “dogs” is not really the best way to describe what all these “dogmeticians” are up to (unless you believe what you see in that little image).

….I just needed a “sexy” title to draw you all in!


This is a guest post from Laurence Raw – prompted because I suggested that he would indeed enjoy the company of these “dogmetitas“.

He actually wanted to use the title – “On Sitting Down to Read Dogme ELT Once Again” (a title shamelessly borrowed from John Keats’ poem “On Sitting Down To Read King Lear Once Again”)!

But, I am the CBO of allthingslearningso I get the last say!

Dog (teeth close up)


GUEST POST by Laurence Raw

I had come across the idea of Dogme ELT in the past, but had never reflected on it in any great depth until I was described by Tony Gurr as someone who might embrace its basic ideas.

With this in mind, I resolved to look into it a little bit further.

It is both a methodology and a movement, dedicated to principles such as interactivity, engagement, dialogism, scaffolding processes, empowerment, relevance and critical use.  TEACHing should be conversation-driven, using a minimum of materials, and concentrating on emergent language through task-based LEARNing.

Some might argue (and they do) that it represents an anti-establishment approach to language teaching.

New and Shiny (rocket dog)


Scott Thornbury’s 2000 article sets forth the basic principles:

“Teaching should be done only using the resources that teachers and students bring to the classroom”;

“Learning takes place in the here-and-now”;

“Teaching – like talk – should centre on the local and relevant concerns of people in the room …. No methodological structures should interfere with, nor inhibit, the free flow of participant-driven input, output, and feedback”.

I am flattered to be placed in such exalted company.


My basic conception of the classroom experience is based on the principles of interactivity and engagement: LEARNers and educators alike should approach the classroom experience as a shared activity, one whose outcomes might not be identifiable in advance. This is what I understand by the concept of the “here-and-now” – everyone should learn how to adapt to the demands of the moment.

I have to admit, however, that I’m a little worried by the idea of “local and relevant concerns.” Let me illustrate this with two short anecdotes.  In the last week I’ve had two “Aha-moments,” where learners have left me absolutely gobsmacked with what they have produced; the quality of their work was something I could never have predicted.  The more I work with them, the more I realize how little I know or understand about how individuals learn.  While assuming – perhaps too complacently – I understand their “local and relevant concerns,” I discover repeatedly that my assumptions are undercut.

LEARNing, for me…consists of the ability to adapt to shifting concerns, whose relevance changes from moment to moment; this is as significant for educators as it is for LEARNers.

The second “Aha-moment” came when we were working with something I’d last approached five years ago. As we worked, I suddenly understood something about the material that I’d never thought of before. I was inspired; class activities evolved like wildfire; and everyone was exhilarated at the end.


What do such experiences tell me?

Whether you call it “Dogme ELT” or give it any other name, LEARNing – in any type of classroom, not just in language teaching – comprises a recurring sequence of “Aha-moments.”  Educators and learners alike have to strive to create such moments, both through collaboration and a willingness to adapt themselves to changing situations.

I have no idea what my learners’ “local and relevant concerns” are; likewise, my learners don’t understand my concerns.  But we can spend our time in the classroom trying our best to relate to each other in an open, problem-sharing environment. Like Scott (Luke, too) we might describe such exchanges as “input, output, and feedback;”

I prefer not to give them any names.  It’s just the way LEARNng works.


Listening (doggy ears)


If you want to LEARN more about the wicked, wicked ways of these “ELT evil-doers” – why not check out a few of these GREAT BLOGS

…and check out Anthony Gaughan’s süper “unplugged public library” for all the bedtime reading you need!

Questions, questions, questions…(Guest Post by Laurence Raw)

In Adult Learners, Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning on 08/11/2012 at 7:55 pm
Well, give a man an inch…on a blog, and he’ll want a bloody mile!
A couple of days ago, Laurence did a super guest-post for us. He must have known it was pretty well-received…’cos he asked me to give him another one.
Not a “rant” this time…but one of the most honest posts I have read for a while on “real LEARNing”!
So, I’m going to shut up…and let him tell the story.
Are you sitting comfortably?
I’ve been fortunate enough to take on a class of graduate learners – the first time I’ve done so in many years.  It’s a pleasurable experience, but also a tough one.
The reason is this: I’m continually being asked similar questions by learners.  “Is this right …?” “Am I doing it right?” “Do you approve of what I’m doing?” “Can I do it better?”
My stock answer to such questions is: “I don’t know.  What do you think?”
However…this often leads to even more confusion.
I recently came across a site explaining why learners find Top-Down Learning so congenial: it’s because they are “given the ‘Big Picture’ first, and then, maybe, the details of what’s involved in the process.” This may sound acceptable at first, but how do we know precisely what the “Big Picture” is? Is it defined by the educator, the institution, the learner, or a combination of all three?
My graduate learners seem to be in no doubt: it’s the institution and the educator who determine their agenda
In my spare time, I devote a couple of hours each week to teaching my thirteen-year-old niece.  Hitherto she has found the task of learning English a difficult one: many of the activities assigned to her have proved difficult for her to complete, and her grades have been correspondingly low.  However this summer she made the effort to improve herself through immersion: watching films, reading books, and trying to converse with as many people in English as she could.
The results have been fascinating: now she is more than happy to communicate in English, but more importantly, she wants to ask questions – about my life, about her own life, and the different ways in which we were brought up.
Asking questions is the key to all learning.
Children learn by asking questions. New recruits learn by asking questions. It is the simplest and most effective way of learning. Brilliant thinkers never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to gain deeper insights. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, has said: “We run this company on questions, not answers.’ He knows that if you keep asking questions you can keep finding better answers.  
My thirteen-year-old niece has understood that asking questions lies at the foundation of improving her language abilitiesInstead of completing endless assignments, ask a question. Intelligent questions stimulate, provoke, inform and inspire. Questions help us to teach as well as to learn.
Top-Down Learning may be safe for my graduate learners, but it discourages them from asking questions.  Everything is nicely prepared and packaged for them, just like packets of frozen food in a supermarket.  The only way I can encourage them to learn is to ask questions of them, and encourage them to ask questions of themselves in response
Maybe, just maybe…I should get my thirteen-year-old niece to come and give them a lesson in learning.  If she had sufficient self-confidence, I would certainly do so.  It would be an interesting reversal of accepted wisdom: the further you advance up the educational ladder, the more you are supposed to ‘know.’
I wonder how it would work in practice?
Laurence Raw
(aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey.
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey

What makes good “academic” or “pedagogic” discussion?

In Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 03/11/2012 at 10:45 am
As some of you will have noticed, I have been MIA in the blogosphere for a fair bit – been on me travels, seeing my big, little girl in big, bad London and buying stuff I really do not need!
A change is as good as a rest – and I wanted to do both…
I was just about to start banging away on the keyboard, when my old friend Laurence dropped me a line. He had noticed that I ain’t done a lot of blogging of late…and that he had not much guest-blogging either.
Laurence is an academic / educator here in in Ankara and is also the editor of the Journal of American Studies of Turkey (despite his very British accent) – he’s also the chappy that I am co-authoring my new book with…
I’ll let him take over…
I’ve been asking myself this question a lot recently, after having read posts on a listserv (which shall remain nameless) focusing on issues of academic freedom, bullying, and the right to express one’s opinion. Sometimes the posts have become quite libellous.
So what is “academic” freedom anyway? The right to express oneself is an important one, and should be developed in every educational sphere, whether in school, university or elsewhere. Group work is an ideal method of doing this, allowing participants to “uncover” new truths, as well as develop their own approaches to LEARNing.
However freedom of expression must be tempered by a concern for other people.  Respect for feelings, emotions, and beliefs is as important as developing one’s own perspective.  LEARNing depends on being able to LISTEN as well as comment.  If we don’t believe this, then we might as well give up the idea of discussion.
Just listen to THE JEREMY KYLE SHOW someday, or any one of those so-called ‘chat’ shows where people come and talk about their (failed) marriages, and just see how the guests shout at one another without giving anyone the chance to speak.  In that kind of atmosphere, no one LEARNs anything, either about themselves, or those around them.
The business leader John Bryan once remarked: “You have to be willing sometimes to listen to some remarkable bad opinions.  Because if you say to someone, ‘That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard, get out of here!– then you’ll never get anything out of that person again, and you might as well have a puppet on a string or a robot.
Make no mistake: I believe in the importance of free speech.  At a northern university in England, an educator has been suspended with no right of reply, either in spoken or written form.  He should be given the right to put his point of view.  But there’s a world of difference between expressing one’s viewpoint and ranting for the sake of it.
The same goes for blog posts: people will listen to you if you listen to them.  You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.  Learning depends to a large extent on asking questions; but to ask questions, you have to be engaged in what you’re reading or listening to.  Ranting turns people off, rather than engaging them; as a result, no one wants to ask questions.
So next time you feel like ranting against someone – in public, in print, or online, just bear the following idea in mind: “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.  The best way to understand people is to listen to them.
That is what academic “freedom” truly represents – the power to be able to understand.
Laurence Raw,
Baskent University – Department of English
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
@laurenceraw (Twitter)

New BLOGS on the BLOCK (in Türkiye)…

In Guest BLOGGERS, News & Updates (from the CBO) on 19/05/2012 at 12:35 pm

A few weeks back, I did a post entitled – Made in Türkiye (BLOGS that is)… – and highlighted a number of great ELT bloggers from Canım Türkiye (Seriously, seriously…Google Translate…when will you get your act together)!

OK – I also had a bit of a “rant” about how many of these bloggers cannot use the beautiful spellings of their names and surnames. But, things are changing – and as a wise old fella once said:


Also, if you is a fan of the “Bard of Avon” (and have a couple of hours to spare) – why not check out the excellent movie “Anonymous” this weekend. You will not regret it…

Tony, will you ever LEARN to “focus”?


Ken Wilson also did a recent post – Young Turks in ELT (in their own words)and profiled a few of the lovely and talented bloggers from around the country. But, I have to say that a few of them (you know who you are) were, shall we say, not quite as “young” as Ken’s title suggested – and certainly not as “lovely” as some of Ken’s female bloggers!


Anyways, I’ve also been doing a bit of “digital stalking” and come across a batch of new bloggers from around Anatolia…and that tiny, wee place that pretends it’s a city but is, in fact, almost a country in itself

The reason I like so many of these new blogs is that they are really getting to grips with “reflective practice” – by sharing some very personal stories about TEACHer LEARNing and growth…


So, yes – this is a “call to arms”…drop in and say “hi” to some of our new kids on the block, leave a comment and pass on the word…

…and, hey…let us know if you hear of any more budding bloggers out there!

Getting FLUENT with the “FIVE FLUENCIES”…

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Technology on 14/03/2012 at 8:50 am

In a couple of the recent posts (in the series on 21st Century LEARNing and TEACHing), we have touched on the importance of FLUENCY in the various 21C LITERACIES – for both teachers and students.

Those of you that follow allthingslearning will be familar with the mini-series of guest-blogger posts that we did at the start of the year. These posts were created by the amazingly wise lads at the 21st Century Fluency Project – Lee CrockettIan Jukes and Andrew Churches – from their new book Literacy is NOT Enough!


There were 7 posts in total – but I thought that this one needed a bit of a “re-boot” (as so many people have been asking for more information on the FLUENCIES themselves). You can see the full list of posts at the end of this one.

This one highlights the “nuts and bolts” of the FIVE FLUENCIES – so, I’ll let the boys get on with it:


By Lee CrockettIan Jukes and Andrew Churches


At the very heart of the 21st Century Fluency Project are the Five Fluencies. We call them fluencies and not skills because we believe this level of proficiency—not just literacy, but fluency—should be the goal when we are teaching students the basic skills that are essential for functioning in life.

It’s important to note that these are not optional skills for our students, or for us. Everyone living in the 21st century and beyond will need these abilities.

They must be cultivated by every teacher in every subject, and at every grade level. And they will mean the difference between success and struggle for the students of our current Information Age. 


Solution Fluency


Our education system has taught problem-solving in a show-and-tell manner (we show students the problem, and tell them how we got the answer) that has fostered a culture of dependency, rather than discovery. But if you look at today’s economy, you’ll discover that most left-brain tasks are already automated or outsourced via Internet in a global economy, leaving jobs that require whole-brain thinking. This means creativity and problem-solving applied in real time. The 6D system is a logical, thorough, and relevant approach for tackling problems:!”

  • Define the problem, because you need to know exactly what you’re doing before you start.
  • Discover a solution, because planning prevents wasted effort.
  • Dream up a process, one that is suitable and efficient.
  • Design the process in an accurate and detailed action plan.
  • Deliver by putting the plan into action by both producing and publishing the solution.
  • Debrief and foster ownership by evaluating the problem solving process.


Information Fluency


Because of InfoWhelm, data is increasing dramatically, facts are becoming obsolete faster, and knowledge built on these facts is less durable. Information fluency is the ability to unconsciously interpret this avalanche of data in all formats, in order to extract the essential and perceive its significance. Information fluency has 5 As, which are: 

  • Ask good questions, in order to get good answers.
  • Access and acquire the raw material from the appropriate digital information sources, which today are mostly graphical and audiovisual in nature.
  • Analyze and authenticate and arrange these materials, and distinguish between good and bad, fact and opinion. Understand bias and determine what is incomplete to turn the raw data into usable knowledge.
  • Apply the knowledge within a real world problem or simulation using a VIP action (vision into practice).
  • Assess both the product and the process, which is both a teacher and a student practice.


Creativity Fluency


Creativity fluency how artistic proficiency adds meaning through design, art, and storytelling. We are all creative people. This means that creativity can be taught and learned like any other skill. It’s a whole brain process that involves both hemispheres working together. There are 5 Is to Creativity fluency:

  • Identify the desired outcome and criteria.
  • Inspire your creativity with rich sensory information.
  • Interpolate and connect the dots by searching for patterns within the inspiration that align with your desired outcome and criteria from Identify.
  • Imagine is the synthesis of Inspire and Interpolate, uniting in the birth of an idea.
  • Inspect the idea against the original criteria and for feasibility.


Media Fluency


In our multimedia world, communication has moved far beyond the realm of text. Our visual learning capacity needs stimulation with rich media from a variety of different sources. But it’s more than just operating a digital camera, creating a podcast, or writing a document. There are two components of Media fluency—one forinput and one for output.

  • Listen actively and decode the communication by separating the media from the message, concisely and clearly verbalizing the message and verifying its authenticity, and then critically analyzing the medium for form, flow, and alignment with the intended audience and purpose.
  • Leverage the most appropriate media for your message considering your content or message and what the desired outcome is. Then consider the audience, your abilities, and any pre-determined criteria. From here, the application of the other fluencies is used to produce and publish your message.


Collaboration Fluency


More and more, working, playing, and learning in today’s digital world involves working with others. It is the spirit of collaboration that will stimulate progress in our global marketplace, in our social networks, and in our ability to create products of value and substance. Collaboration fluency is the ability to successfully work and interact with virtual and real partners. The 5 Es of Collaboration fluency are: 

  • Establish the collective, and determine the best role for each team member by pinpointing each team member’s personal strengths and expertise, establishing norms, and the signing of a group contract that indicates both a collective working agreement and an acceptance of the individual responsibilities and accountability of each team member.
  • Envision the outcome, examining the issue, challenge, and goal as a group.
  • Engineer a workable plan to achieve the goal.
  • Execute by putting the plan into action and managing the process.
  • Examine the process and the end result for areas of constructive improvement.


Global Digital Citizen



The digital citizen uses the principles of leadershipethicsaccountability, fiscal responsibilityenvironmental awarenessglobal citizenship, and personal responsibility, and considers his or her actions and their consequences. The ideal Global Digital Citizen is defined by the presence of 5 main qualities: 

  • Personal Responsibility in ethical and moral boundaries, finance, personal health and fitness, and relationships of every definition.
  • Global Citizenship and its sense of understanding of world-wide issues and events, respect for cultures and religions, and an attitude of acceptance and tolerance in a changing world.
  • Digital Citizenship and the guiding principles of respecting and protecting yourself, others, and all intellectual property in digital and non-digital environments.
  • Altruistic Service by taking advantage of the opportunities we are given to care for our fellow citizens, and to lend our hands and hearts to these in need when the need is called for.
  • Environmental Stewardship and its common sense values about global resource management and personal responsibility for safeguarding the environment, and an appreciation and respect for the beauty and majesty that surrounds us every day.


Our Students, Our Future

In the end, our job as educators should no longer be just to stand up in front of our children and show them how smart we are and how stupid they are. The problem is that, as educators, we simply don’t understand how different our digital generation really is.

Neurologically speaking, kids today aren’t just a little different; they’re completely different.

If we continue to do things that we already know aren’t working, we have to consider just who really has the learning problem … because it certainly isn’t the kids.


FULL LISTING of all LNE posts on allthingslearning:

#1 – Can a committee write a poem? 

#2 – Why we need more “Committed Sardines”…

#3 – From Literacy to Fluency – 21st Century Fluencies, that is…

#4 – Getting FLUENT with the 5 FLUENCIES… 

#5 – How to make LEARNing “stick”

#6 – Stop Talking…Start DOING!

#7 – Crafting Scenarios for 21st Century Fluency Lessons


For those of you that are interested in even more “bedtime reading” on 21st Century LEARNing and TEACHing – why not take a look at these:

Tony’s 21st CENTURY LEARNing Library


Personal MISFIRES with Classroom Observation (…NOT Part 07)

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Training on 29/02/2012 at 2:09 pm

Those of you that have been following allthingslearning will have probably picked up that I have been “obsessed” with MISFIRES of late.

My daughter has just told me that she will unsubscribe from the blog, if I write Part 07 – so I will not! 

Michael Griffin (aka @michaelegriffin), working from Seoul, has done that…


Michael and I “met” and got chatting on Twitter (what a wonderful “community-builder” it is) as I built up my recent mini-series:

 Now, you see why my daughter is talking about emancipating herself from me and me blog!


I’d been planning on writing up a series on the “whoops-a-daisies” many of us face with classroom observation for ages – I started a few months ago and did an “exposé post” (CLASSROOM OBSERVATION – What Works, What Matters?) on what a “terrible observer” I must have been in my “youth”…



However, it was not until I came across a a couple of recent blog posts:

…that I decided to “pixilate” and “blogathon” my thoughts on why it is (IMHO) that we get it wrong just so bloody often.


I’m so happy to see that Michael has done an even better job in the “exposé post” department and really loved his willingness to be so open, honest and transparent

…these 3 little things ar so important to REAL LEARNing and helping us all avoid the misfires!

Thank you for sharing this Michael…


Michael’s post: 

Lately I have been doing a lot of work with Korean public school teachers who will be observers and mentors in their schools. I have been wanting to share my experience as an observee for quite some time…

Before I start I will share a little bit about the context of my story, which occurred at a language school attached to a university in Seoul. The language school had an intensive English program (among other programs) where students studied for 30 hours a week with a variety of teachers and had classes like reading, writing, listening, and grammar. Students at lower levels also had two speaking classes. One was called “Practical English” and the other was called “Learning to Speak.” The former was supposed to be more focused on accuracy and speaking in situations while the latter was focused on fluency and was considered a precursor to discussion classes…

Observations were generally a nebulous mix of development and evaluation. This means that suggestions and critical feedback (along with the occasional positive point) were given with an eye to improving teaching and overall customer satisfaction but the observations were also a chance for the Director to think about potential re-hirings.

Teachers didn’t really know what the criteria was and didn’t really know what to expect in the post lesson conference.  There was no checklist. There were no guidelines.

Also, teachers didn’t know when they would be observed. The director didn’t want teachers to prepare too much for the lesson and it seemed that she wanted to “catch” people teaching in their normal way. Of course, there was no pre-lesson conference or any discussion except, “I will be observing your next class in 15 minutes if that is OK.” There had to be a very good reason for it not to be OK and teachers almost always accepted this. 

From what I could gathered from experience and other teachers the post-lesson conference with the Director was generally pretty free flowing with the Director asking a (very!) few questions and then doling out suggestions and pointed critiques. 

Does this sound like a recipe for success in observation and feedback?

Click HERE to read on…

Crafting Scenarios for 21st Century Fluency Lessons

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum, Guest BLOGGERS on 29/12/2011 at 3:47 pm

I know, I know…so many of you have had just about enough of 21st Century “this” and 21st Century “that”!

But, we do have to finish the series of guest-post from  Lee CrockettIan Jukes and Andrew Churches before the end of the yearand you know that they really do “walk-their-talk” with everything 21st Century and allthingsFLUENCY. 


This is the final post in the serialisation of Literacy is NOT Enough – and perhaps the most important

If you remember (from the last post – Stop Talking, Start DOING!), the guys told us that Chapter 11 is really the “guts” of the book – as they walk us through the process of developing scenarios and provide us with samples and templates of the unit plans they have created for their great 21st Century Fluency Kits.

Now, obviously I cannot post the whole chapter – but you’ll be glad to hear that the guys promise me that the public beta version of their “curriculum integration kits” will be up on the website very soon. These “kits” will give you full details on the types of lessons, processes and rubrix you can create to build lessons that really encourage your learners to flourish in all the fluency areas we have been talkıng about.

So, while we wait for them to appear on the site, here’s the latest post from Andrew, Ian and Lee – outlining the critical starting point; Crafting Scenarios.


In the 21st-century classroom, the instructional model shifts. The teacher is no longer the focal point of the classroom. Instead, students work in groups to create real-world solutions to real-world problems. Embedded within these problems are the curricular objectives.

The teacher now takes on a new role as the facilitator of learning, presenting scenarios outlining real-world problems that are relevant to students and simultaneously aligned with curricular goals.

There are endless possibilities for crafting scenarios. At first, it may seem to be an overwhelming task, but rest assured that after you go through the process a few times, cultivating scenarios will become easier and you will be begin to see connections between the content that needs to be covered and everyday life experiences. One teacher shared this story with us: 

I was standing in line at the coffee shop. I was looking around, mindlessly waiting for my turn, when I saw the barista take a paper cup off the big stack by the espresso machine. Instantly, this idea for a whole unit jumped into my head about sustainability. I started typing madly on my phone to try and capture some of the details. 

Suddenly I was at the counter with the huge line behind me. I asked the person taking my order to just hang on for a second while I finished my thought; then I let the person behind me go ahead. I realized it looked ridiculous. I looked like one of my students that I roll my eyes at. ,What’s happened to me? I’ve turned into a thumbster teenager!


Start With the Curriculum 

Our entire educational system is built on standards. There is no getting away from the defined curriculum. Standards vary from state to state and country to country, but it makes no difference if your district has its own or aligns to the Common Core standards; you are still accountable for the curriculum. So the curriculum is an excellent place to start.

Select a single curricular objective. From that one objective, identify the specific skills or content that the students need to master. It is critical from the outset to remember that if we want to develop independent, lifelong learners, our intention must be to shift the burden of responsibility for learning from the teacher, where it has traditionally been, to the learner, where it truly belongs.

It is the students’ job to learn the curriculum. The teacher’s job is to guide them in that process, provide support, and develop a structure in which they can grow.


What Would Be Relevant – in Context, or Applicable to Your Students’ Lives?

The best place to start crafting a scenario is to ask yourself where your students may come across this information or this skill in their lives outside of school. If it’s something they’ll come across in their own world, then instantly there is a connection that brings relevance and context to the learner. If nothing immediately comes to mind, try to identify the kinds of tasks that students would be performing when they applied these skills or used this knowledge, and consider how using this content could be made compelling for students.

At this point, many people start to think vocationally and consider professions that would involve this particular skill or knowledge. While that can be useful, this approach is often quickly discarded by students.

Although we don’t want teachers to discount situations in which people may predictably come across this type of challenge as part of their occupation, we should also work to identify occupations and skills that include unpredictable circumstances. For example, if a nutritionist needs to use specific technical information related to a dietary matter and a student has no interest in becoming a nutritionist, the student will quickly disconnect from this information. In other words, there will be no personal relevance to the learner. Relevance must always be the top consideration in developing scenarios for learning to occur.

When using vocational examples, you have to ensure that there is relevance to the students. For example, what if a nutritionist was a consultant for your school’s football team, helping the team members to fine-tune their healthy eating habits in hopes of helping them win the state championship? If your school is big on football, this might be something students could relate to. Better still, maybe this actually is a real-world example and the football team is involved. Perhaps the problem could be tied to specific players. Maybe the quarterback could provide a food journal of what he eats on a daily basis and the students could make recommendations as personal nutritionists. In this case, the quarterback might use the suggestions, gain 4 pounds of lean body mass, and drop his body fat by 3 percent. Maybe because of this, your school will win the state championship. All the students would then acknowledge you as one of the reasons for victory – your brilliant unit plan about nutritional strategies would have won them the championship. There would be a parade, and all the students would carry you on their shoulders shouting your name. A statue might be erected in your honor, and they would name the new football stadium after you.

All right, perhaps we’re taking things a little too far, but do you see what we mean about connection? If students can relate to it, if they can get excited about it, and if they can connect to it, then they will learn from it, and this is easiest to do with a real-world scenario.

This can never be emphasized enough, so let’s repeat it one more time. For learning to stick, it has to have relevance – not to the teacher, but to the learner.


Ripped From the Headlines

Once you’re comfortable writing scenarios that are generic, you’ll find yourself creating scenarios on the fly – just like the teacher who wrote to us about her coffee shop experience. You will start seeing possibilities everywhere, because they are everywhere!

The point of a good scenario, and therefore a good unit, is that it has relevance to the students – that it has real-world context. What better place to find real-world context than in the real world? Ask yourself what is happening in the world. How is what’s happening going to affect us all? How can what is on the front page of the paper today be brought into the classroom?

You will find within newspaper and magazine stories the basis for dozens of scenarios. Every conceivable curricular objective for every subject—mathematics, social studies, language arts, economics, geography, science—it’s all there! As an added bonus, if it’s in the news, it’s something your students can instantly relate to. When you find a connection between local, national, and global situations in a headline story, you have the makings of a great scenario.


How Can a Task Be Designed to Require Higher-Level Thinking?

Earlier, we discussed Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and noted that lower-order thinking skills (LOTS) involve simply remembering or understanding. As we move up through applying, analyzing, evaluating, and finally creating, we cultivate higher-order thinking skills (HOTS). If students are required to compare or contrast two or more things; if they are required to make inferences and find evidence to support generalizations; if they are required to form an opinion, or make a choice and justify the details with research; if they are asked to apply acquired knowledge, facts, techniques, and rules in a different way; if they are required to create something; or if they are asked to defend opinions by making informed decisions, then higher-level thinking is involved.

This, of course, is the objective. We want to ensure that by the time the students graduate, they are capable of unconsciously and consistently applying the higher-level skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy in their everyday lives. For them to achieve this, students must be given repeated opportunities to practice these skills. This is why it’s our responsibility to make sure higher-level thinking is involved in every educational scenario.


How Can Digital Tools Be Used to Create a Real-World Product That Demonstrates the Learning?

Wherever possible, the outcome should provide students with the opportunity to create, preferably with digital tools, a real-world product. Keep in mind the 6 Ds: Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Debrief. Delivery of a product must involve not only production but also publication. Publication is an essential step that allows students to debrief completely – to evaluate the product and the process through its real-world application to the original problem.


Putting It All Together

You now have everything you need to start assembling your scenario. This example is from a Grade 6 Language Arts lesson plan called “A President Is Born.” In this lesson, students work in groups to develop unique class presidential candidates and design creative campaign packages for them. Later on, the candidates square off against each other in a structured class debate.

 “A President Is Born”: The Scenario 

Our political leaders use various tools and strategies when running for an election. From a well-designed series of graphics to represent their ideas, values, and personalities to a catchy and compelling campaign slogan to their crucial political speeches, candidates must do a great deal to promote themselves and their ideals. In groups, take a look at the campaigns of recent political leaders and how they are structured to gain ideas for the next phase of the project. You can introduce videos or recordings of chosen campaign speeches for the class to consider and have them take notes as to what they observe about structure and content. 

Each group will dream up a running candidate for a fictional class president. Give the candidate a name, a unique personality, and a mission statement for the election. Your group will start by creating an original image for the candidate you are campaigning for, and there are no limitations here—person, animal, and so forth. Once you have created your running candidate, create a speech for him or her, which you will present orally. Conduct research and gain insight by asking people about what kinds of work leaders and politicians do for the people they represent. Look at other leaders for inspiration and ideas. Revise and edit your speech as you gain new insight and knowledge through research, which must include human resources (e.g., parents, friends, community leaders, etc.). Your speech needs to be a compelling political speech. 

Last, create a unique and stand-out campaign poster for your candidate. It should be eye-catching, original, and define your candidate’s personality and beliefs using images or maybe even a symbol of some kind. Also, make sure the poster includes a “campaign motto” or statement that is unique to your candidate. It should be one short line that sums up your character’s ideals and values and their pledge to the people if elected. 

Finally, it’s time to find out where your candidates stand on an important issue and how they would handle it if elected. With the teacher acting as mediator, the class will structure a debate about a chosen issue either in the news or in their community, and open a dialogue where the candidates square off and present their views and arguments. At the end of the debate, all groups will share their thoughts on how they felt each candidate represented himself or herself both on the campaign and in the issue debate and what strengths that candidate ultimately has as a vote-worthy figure.


The Acid Test for Scenario Development

Once you have developed a unit, you need to step back from it, do a Debrief, and find out how appropriate it is. Objectively, read your scenario and ask the following questions. If the answer to any of them is no, then go back to the beginning and review all of the steps until your scenario can pass this challenge.

  • Is there a problem or challenge?
  • Is this relevant to the learner?
  • Does it require higher-level thinking?
  • Does it address multiple curricular objectives?
  • Does it cultivate the 21st-century fluencies?
  • Are digital tools used to create a real-world product?
  • Are there things that need to be discovered?


I’d like to take a moment to thank Lee, Andrew and Ian for allowing me to use their book Literacy is NOT Enoughto produce this series of guest posts.

As I mentioned above, you will be able to find more information on their curriculum integration kits and some great sample lessons on their site in the very near future. You can also subscribe to their great blog – The Committed Sardine. 


Stop Talking…Start DOING!

In Book Reviews, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Schools, Our Universities, Uncategorized on 19/12/2011 at 11:24 am

Sticky TEACHing and LEARNing


In November I started a “series” based on the work of those lovely chaps at the 21st Century Fluency ProjectLee CrockettIan Jukes and Andrew Churches very kindly gave me permission to use their new book Literacy is NOT Enough to create a number of “guest-posts” (now, if we could only get more writers to don their “creative commons” hats)!

To date, I have done five posts:

#1 – Can a committee write a poem? 

#2 – Why we need more “Committed Sardines”…

#3 – From Literacy to Fluency – 21st Century Fluencies, that is…

#4 – Getting FLUENT with the 5 FLUENCIES… 

#5 – How to make LEARNing “stick”


I was planning to complete the series in six posts – with the last one highlighting the type of lessons teachers can develop to really “breathe life” into the “Fluencies”. Best laid plans and all of that!

However, I had to edit down Post #5 – and missed a very important bit of commentary from Andrew, Lee and Ian…

So, here is Part 6 – or perhaps Part 5b…… 



A study that was conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation in Michigan back in 1998 clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of cultivating higher-level thinking as well as measurable learning and retention. In the study, two groups of 100 social studies students were taught the same information by two different methods. One group was taught in the traditional way that’s all too familiar to us: full-frontal lecturing with students sitting in rows. They poured over worksheets and were hammered with drills, drills, and more drills, and traditional tests and quizzes.

Weapons of Mass Instruction


The second group learned primarily through problem- and process-based approaches.

This group of students worked both individually and in groups. They benefited from self-assessment, peer assessment, and teacher assessment. They focused on creating real-world products to solve real-world problems.


At the end of the year, both groups were tested, using the same traditional state-mandated exams for social studies. The results were stunning, and most likely not what you would expect.

The scores were nearly identical for both groups, regardless of how they learned. You might be confused now as to the point of this. Perhaps you’re thinking this indicates that there is no point in investing in technology or new instructional and assessment methods.

Apparently the old approach still works just as well as ever.


You’d be wrong. One year later, unwarned and therefore unprepared, the students were given the very same test that the previous year they had passed with both groups performing equally well.

The results were astonishing!



The group that was taught using traditional methods was able to recall only about 15 percent of the content. To make matters worse, an analysis of the results and the students’ thinking indicated that they viewed social studies as a series of itemized facts—this happened on this date, this happened on that date, and one event did not influence another in any way.

Theirs is an excellent example of lower-order thinking.


The group that was taught using problem- and process-based learning approaches recalled more than 70 percent of the content. More important, they demonstrated a deep understanding of the integrated nature of their learning. In other words, they not only remembered the content but also understood its significance. They were able to make abstract connections between events. Effective learners make attachments or connections between their existing knowledge and new information.

This is Velcro learning! This is higher-order thinking. These are the goals we have for our students, and we need to make this shift in the instructional approach to give them the opportunity to develop the skills we know they need.

They are limited not by their abilities, but by our lack of flexibility in making the shift.


Even though this research has been around for decades, many educators continue to depend completely on the “stand and deliver; sit and learn” full-frontal lecture method. If we were to be really honest with ourselves, we know intuitively that this isn’t working.



Teachers are good people who are committed to their students and want to do what’s best for them. Yet what they’re doing isn’t working. They know this, but they continue to do it. Why? There is an unprecedented pressure on educators today. As our students are failing, fingers are being pointed at teachers. In many cases, teachers’ salaries and employment are being tied to student performance.

Governments are demanding that more information be taught than there are hours available in the student’s career. At the same time, millions of dollars are being slashed from budgets. In the panic to meet the mandates, teachers are attempting to cram as much information into students’ heads as possible. Many students are seeing education as a 16-year process of slowly and painfully memorizing facts that can be Googled in seconds. The result is that they are tuning out and leaving school in unprecedented numbers—in some cases more than 50 percent of students. As we discussed earlier, this is happening not just in high schools but also in universities.

It’s time to shift the instructional approach away from talking as teaching to problem- and process-based learning. In the 21st-century classroom, we must move the responsibility for learning from the teacher, where it traditionally has been, to the student, where it should be. Students must become active participants in their education. The teacher becomes the facilitator of learning, posing real-world problems that have relevance to the learners and guiding them through the process of creating a real-world solution. It’s up to the students to decide how best to communicate their understanding. The learning is not scripted, and it doesn’t limit students—they have the opportunity to explore, to communicate, and to create.

While it is not an easy shift, it is very rewarding – for both teachers and students.


As the 21st-century learning environment revolves around real-world problems, teachers must transition to be crafters of these problems. A well-written scenario that connects real-world relevance to the learner, cultivates the 21st-century fluencies, and addresses curricular objectives sounds like a lot to ask for.

Road to Truth (Buddha quote) Ver 02


Like any skill, it takes time to develop. It also takes a willingness to make mistakes – that is what debriefing is all about – and finding a way to do it better next time.

In the next chapter, we walk you through the process of developing scenarios. We also provide samples and templates of the unit plans we have created for our 21st Century Fluency Kits. This next chapter is the real meat of this book, so let’s get at it and have some fun transforming your classroom into a 21st-century learning environment.


This guest-post is adapted from Chapter 10 of Ian, Andrew and Lee’s new book Literacy is NOT Enough