Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘change’

Who will my students BECOME after they LEARN with me?

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning, The Paradigm Debate on 18/07/2013 at 9:25 am

TEACHing is not LEARNing


This little image is one of the very first I did for the blog – almost 3 years back!

It’s been downloaded so many times – hey, some people have even conntacted me and asked me for “permission” to download it (yes, there are many nice guys out there…gals, too). Others have suggested that I add a word or two…we could probably add many!


Not that you need me to tell you…but I was kinda stating the obvious when I did this – and, I was also linking it to two other questions that TEACHers ask themselves on a Monday morningor Sunday night:

The toss up (LEARNing vs TEACHing)


Very different, aren’t they?


It’s not really a toss-upit’s a choice!

I’ve found that the TEACHers who ask the second question “do business” very differently to those that ask the first. I’ve also “confessed” (and recently re-booted the post in which I made that confession) that I used to ask the first far more than I ever asked the second.

So…how do we get from that second question to the one I have used at the title of this post?


Well, I thunk it’s a question of what matters…or, to be more specific, what we thunk matters…and what we do to breathe life into that thunk.


Go back to that first image, for a minute…I was suggesting that there are 11 things that are really important in allthingsLEARNing.

If you had to choose 3 of them, what would they be?


  • FUN, perhaps? It’s important, for sure…but it might not make the top 3, yes?
  • What about REFLECTION? Yes, that one might be in there.
  • FEEDBACK? The LEARNing lubegotta have that in my top 3!


Or, maybe, it’s EXAM PASSES!


For me, top of the list would be:

Change (Margaret Mead quote) Ver 02


Come on! Only 18 words there…you know the ONE!


Need another clue?

Change (David Thoreau quote)


It’s in there TWICE


OK…I know you have got it by now – but I just wanted to throw in this one, too

Change (Maya Angelou quote) Ver 03

I know, I know…but I did take all that time to prepare it!


Besides…who doesn’t love the She-Hulk? I bet Maya Angelou does…


Change (Leo Buscaglia quote)


LEARNing has to involve change…change in the way the LEARNer thinks, feels and acts.

It’s not just about LEARNing “stuff” or it shouldn’t be. The “stuff” we are creating these days is growing at exponential rates…and if our goal, as TEACHers, is to simply TEACH this stuff, we might as well just pack up and go home – and leave it all to the tech we now have!


This is why our questions have changed…have to change.

Just asking “What should I TEACH today”? …is a “stuff question”.

Asking “What should my students LEARN today”? is an improvement…and, asking “What should my students be able to do with what they LEARN today”? – is even better!


However, asking:

Who will my students BECOME

…is a whole new ball-game.


A ball-game that scares the crap out of many TEACHers!


Indeed, many TEACHers I have discussed this question with tell me it’s an impossible question – especially those that work in the ELT “racket”. They tell me that primary TEACHers (even university TEACHers) have a shot at this – they are well-placed…they have enough stuff to TEACH…they can shape minds (and souls)!

A friend of mine once told me, “I’m beginning to think that all that stuff about you being a LEARNatic is true…Come on! I’m just a bloody language TEACHer…I TEACH grammar…sorry, language communication skills…I help kids with the 4 skills…and vocabulary”!


Read that again…


My friend is, by the way, a great TEACHer. But, he is notgreat” because of his knowledge of grammar…nor because he knows how to TEACH the 4 skills (rather than just “practice” them using a silly textbook).




…look at how he describes himself!


I wanted to slap him upside his head when he said this! Instead…I think I made him pay the bill!


Why do so many TEACHers put themselves down in this way?

Maybe it’s because this is what institutions have LEARNed themI don’t know!


Change (Seth Godin quote)

My friend is a great TEACHer because he really knows how to “connect” with his students…and because the quality of his interactions with his “kids” allow him to make a real difference to the way those kids think, feel and act – and I ain’t only talking about GRAMMAR!

You see…it doesn’t really matter “what” we TEACH…what discipline we work in, yani! Afterall, none of us really “TEACHes courses”, do we?

We TEACH kids, teenagers, young adults…and even old farts like me!


When I had this discussion with my old pal, it took a long time to convince him (what the heck…he was paying the bill)! Seth Godin had not published his latest book The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?

I wish he had! Perhaps, we’d have fewer TEACHers saying the type of things my friend was saying.


Seth’s book has also led me to add another little question to my list:


Who will I BECOME (as a TEACHer)


…far more important for us as EDUcators, yes?


Afterall, we (also) need to remember the words of Ellen Hocam:


Change (Ellen Glasgow quote)



Wonderful BEDtime reading for every TEACHer (and their dogs):


The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin



FIXing Hazırlık… (Pt 01 of 03)

In Adult Learners, ELT and ELL, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 21/05/2013 at 2:38 pm

Fixing FQ 01


Have you ever been on the sharp end of a question like that?

It’s a bit ‘rude’, innit?


BUT…that’s exactly the question (OK…I used the term ‘smarty-pants’ to convey the stress and intonation used…as well as some of the facial expressions I saw) that I have been asked in a number of conversations since I started:

Truth (mini ver 01)

…in the last few posts I have being doing:

(BTW – ‘hazırlık’ is the Turkish term for the English Language Preparatory Programmes run by many universities here…just so you know)!


Perhaps, I should just remind those people what my dear friend Hannibal ‘does’ with rude people

Hannibal (dinner)


I know, I know…I shouldn’t get upset by these types of questions. I know I have put myself in the firing line by popping my head out of the box. 

…just wait till I do the series on what actually happens in faculty departments!



The thing is that…this type of question started to be dropped into my in-box and the comments section of the posts before I’d even got to the second blog post. Some of them were not as rude…they were genuine questions, from genuine people…facing many of the genuine ‘problems’ that I was trying to draw attention to.

Questions like:

Fixing FQ 02

…fair enough!


The thing is…these questions reminded me of the wonderful work of Peter Block (esp. his perspective-shaking book – THE ANSWER TO HOW IS ‘YES’).

For Peter, these types of questions are (usually) a defense against getting an ‘improvement effort’ started, a defense against change.

No change (cartoon)

…so sad! …so true! …so common!


Now, I’m not so sure that everyone who asks a HOW-question is running from the truth (or is trying to postpone actually doing something about a problem). However, Peter’s questions are used a heck of a lot by people in our hazırlık schools (and the guys that ‘control’ these schools with their ‘decision-making’) – especially those with those heady job titles we discussed.

Very few of these hazırlık stakeholders, for example, ask one of the ‘alternative questions’ suggested by Peter:


Fixing FQ 07


…I wonder why, acaba? We’ll come back to this – promise!


Instead, many hazırlık stakeholders (including LEARNers…and their parents) ask questions like this:

Fixing FQ 03

This question tells us a lot.

  • Firstly, that these stakeholders are more interested in an ‘answer-orientated’ approach to ‘quality education’ – you know, ‘quick fixes’ or ‘magic bullets’.
  • Secondly, that they have more ‘faith’ in others (esp. foreigners…and, even better, foreign consultants) than they do in themselves and their own abilities.
  • Thirdly, that all it takes to ‘fix’ a problem is to do a bit more “alıntı, çalıntı and mış-gibi yapmak” (the Turkish translation for “borrowing, ripping off, and faking-it-till-you-make-it”).


Silly…misguided…(and) just plain dumb!


These people often jump to other questions (when they stumble onto a ‘solution’ they can ‘import’) – questions like these:

Fixing FQ 04 and 05

Mmmm…we were asking why so many Mütivelli Heyeti Başkanlar (Chairmen…and they are often ‘men’…of the Board) wanted to increase contact hours and class size!

Now, you know…

You see, many hazırlık stakeholders want the ‘cheapest’ version of the ‘quick fix’ possible – without really lifting a finger (for hazırlık that is…the Engineering Faculty can, as a rule, get whatever the bloody hell it wants). The question about length of time required kinda gives this away, too!



…my favourite question is this one:

Fixing FQ 06

What were we saying about the blame game?


…after all, it’s so easy to point the finger…when you do not really want to ‘fix’ stuff. Of course, we all want to give the impression that we…us…ourselves…have no trouble going the extra mile (to put LEARNing at the heart of our decision-making).

Blame Game 01

…it’s just THEM…THEY…those (bloody) OTHERS – that ‘stop’ us!


And…if that don’t work, we always have the other

Change (50 reasons)

…up our sleeves!


The combination of a culture of blame (along with its sister culture – ‘CYA) and our unquestioning worship of “how-to” pragmatism (constantly asking “how” – rarely “why) basically means that most of our hazırlık schools are doing more and more about things that mean less and lessfor both LEARNers and EDUcators!

Insane (TG version)


The first of Peter’s alternative questions (the one I promised to come back to) has much to do with my current theme:

TELLing the truth


The question:

Fixing FQ 07

…is one for all stakeholdersteachers, administrators (including Rectors and the Mütevelli Heyeti), testing and curriculum specialists and LEARNers (no…they are not angels either). Rather than pointing the finger or passing-the-buck, this question asks us all to take personal responsibility for whatever might be ‘broken’ across our hazırlık schools.

Yes, ‘being’ truthful – before ‘telling the truth’!

Peter tells us that other questions can help us get to this question:

Fixing FQ 08 09 and 10


questions that recognise we need to ‘question’ our ‘purpose’ – and how well we might be meeting that purpose…and how far we believe (in our heart of hearts) that it is possible to create new kinds of LEARNing institutions (and workplaces) grounded on more positive values, such as respect, trust and listening

Fixing FQ 11 12 and 13

questions that require us to look at the reasons we have been putting off the ‘fixes’ all of us know are in the best interests of the individuals and communities that live, LEARN and work in our institutions:

…and commit to ‘do’ whatever it takes to make these things happen!


Yes…even LEARNers…especially with LEARNers!


This is where you scroll back to the top…while I draft Pt 02 of 03!

Is FAILURE really NOT an option?

In Book Reviews, Our Schools, Our Universities on 22/03/2012 at 3:12 pm

A few days ago, I did a post entitled – How have you FAILED today? (and, who might “find out” about it…) – and highlighted two recent books that are actively attempting to fight the myth that …failure is NOT an option.

Both Tim Hartford and Paul Schoemaker have been working very hard to help us see that mistakes or failures should be viewed as “portals of discovery” – and that it is the reflection on and analysis of failure that creates success.


Schoemaker takes this even further and advises organisations and institutions to build “ecosystems” that actually promote failure, allow mistakes to actively add value to people within those organisations – and, even develop a “portfolio of mistakes”.

As I noted, a lot of educational institutions would have trouble adopting this “model” – many indivduals in our schools, colleges and universities still lack the type of reflective and forensic mind-set to step that far out-of-the-box!

  • Why is this?
  • Why is it that we are so scared of “failure” – or worse “being seen to fail by others”?


Hartford, in his great book “Adapt”, poses a similar question. He asks:

  • What are the obstacles to “learning from our mistakes”?

…and, comes up with three very sensible reasons:

  • Denialbecause we cannot separate our error from sense of self-worth
  • Self-destructive Behaviorbecause we compound our losses by trying to compensate for them
  • The “Rose-tinted” Approach to Reflectionwhereby we remember past mistakes as though they were triumps, or mash together our failures with our successes.

Most of us will recognise these “habits” as being pretty common – we are humans, after all, and many of us are never fully comfortable with “self-doubt”. We often fail to see the difference between the phrases “I screwed up” and “I am a total screw-up” – and while we do not like to admit that a lot of us have the potential for a wee bit of self-destruction from time-to-time, we do love our off-red sunglasses!


However, as I pondered Hartford’s explanations, I kept coming back to this notion of “habits” – and “culture”. It seems to me that one of the most important obstacles is our preference for a “culture of blame” and (still) an obsession with the “win-lose” mentality.

How often have you heard the questions:

  • Whose fault was it?
  • Who’s to blame?
  • What bloody idiot screwed up this time?

Rather than the far more constructive questions:

  • What’s the big picture here?
  • Who’s the best person to help us out with this?
  • What options do we have? How do we fix it?

Or, even:

  • Mmmmm, what can we LEARN from this?

It’s almost as if “finger pointing” and “playing the blame game” is hardwired into our DNA!


We forget that:

…especially, in a organisational or institutional context. This approach is just plain dumb!


Schoemaker helps us see this when he defines a mistake or failure as:

…a decision, an action or a jugdment that is less than optimal, given what was possible to know at the time (p.13)

Why do we rush to assign blame for something that most of us could not have known ahead of time, for the future consequences of past decisions made with imperfect knowledge?

And, how the hell does pointing fingers help indivduals make better decisions or take better decisions in the future – when they are living in constant fear of being “caught out”?

Talk about God complexes! Perhaps, we should all remember – let she that has never screwed up…

Schoemaker’s notion of “a brilliant mistake” may be a bit of an oxymoron – but people who actively promote and maintain our institutional cultures of blame are simply mega-morons!


As I mentioned habits earlier, we might be able to call on someone that can help us with all this. In his latest book, The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems, Covey tells us:

Although his book is essentially a refreshing new take on conflict resolution, he suggests a very simple way of overcoming many of the obstacles we face when dealing with failure and mistakes in a finger-pointing culture.

His Third Alternative is amazingly simple to grasp – but needs people to “see” the flaws of our more traditional “alternatives”:

  • the First Alternative is “my way”
  • the Second Alternative is “your way”

These two approaches to problem-solving are based on the same win-lose mentality that feeds our cultures of blame.

When a mistake is made, someone has to pay and lose,  – and it better not be me!

Covey’s Third Alternative“Our Way” – takes us beyond “my way” or “your way” to a higher and better way. A way that does not involve anyone having to give something up – a “LEARNing way” where everyone “wins”.

Obviously, Uncle Stephen is interested in helping his readers co-create new and better results and build stronger relationships. However, it is his attention to a “win-win” approach to dealing with failures and mistakes that interests me most. 


Darwin once said:


It is not so much our “fear of failure” that leads to such motherhood statements as “failure is NOT an option” – it is the mindscapes we have created and allowed to “evolve” and flourish in our schools, colleges and universities. We have been playing the same game for years (some less than others, granted) – but, it has not helped us one bit…

Time to stop! After all…


How have you FAILED today? (and, who might “find out” about it…)

In Book Reviews, News & Updates (from the CBO) on 19/03/2012 at 3:26 pm


At a recent teacher training symposium I was “told off” for being “overly negative”!

Now, those of you that know me might think that this was a bit unfair. I am, as you know, a veritable “ray of sunshine”an eternal optimist, even…



So, why would someone suggest that little ‘ole me was less than “positive”? Well, it seems that the trainer in question had been listening to a few of things I had been saying over the day (…least she was awake). Things like:

  • What was the real problem?
  • What did you get wrong in the initial stages?
  • What did you learn from messing up?
  • What other weaknesses did that expose? How did you fix them? 

OK, I may have used phrases like “screw up”, too – but what was interesting was the way in which so many of my “core” phrases were “seen” as carrying an unnecessarily “less-than-positive” message. This was evidenced in the way I was asked to modify my own language – I was advised that I should be using phrases like “areas for improvement” or “challenges” and avoid words like “problems” or “failure”.

Since when did education become a “no FAILURE” zone…

And, when did it become acceptable for us not to say what we mean…(does that also imply that we should not mean what we say)?


Today, we can hardly open a newspaper or download a web page without being confronted with headlines reporting of the “failures” of education systems, the so-called screw ups of schools and universities and the gaffs in the way we run the business of LEARNing. With so many reports on our “mistakes” (and if we believe the maxim about the importance of LEARNing from these) we should be LEARNing, ADAPTing and TRANSFORMing as if we were on steroids!

Perhaps, the reason these articles or reports have become such a staple of our day-to-day media is that we have not been exploring our soft spots, our mistakes, our failures…enough.

I get that many more “traditional” trainers still like to open their workshops with a choral rendition of “Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya, O Lord, kum bay ya” – and hand out flowers with their resource packs.

But, come on! Who are we kidding, really?


I think a lot of these sentiments stem from the sensitivity we trainers and teacher educators have when giving feedback to others (especially in the context of classroom observation or performance reviews) – sensitivity that is wholly required.

However, when we extend this approach to allthingseducation and avoid the whole issue of “failure” – we miss the many of the opportunities for meaningful exploration, for real growth and powerful LEARNing.

Rather than avoiding discussion of our failures or mistakes – we need to embrace them, analyse them and LEARN from them.

But, it’s not just teacher educators.


We do not like to talk about “failure” in education (full stopperiod). And, sadly, still like to play the “blame game” and opt for use of “smoke-and-mirrors” then the “fit-hits-the-shan“.

This is why I was so pleased to see a recent post from Peter DeWitt on “The Benefits of Failure”– and then another a few days ago “What is Failure?” (in Education Week).

I loved his honesty:

For full disclosure, I have failed many times. I have failed as a friend, and as a teacher. As a young student I was retained in elementary school and spent a great deal of my formative years failing a variety of subjects. I dropped out of a couple of community colleges and that was after barely graduating from high school. I have seen failure many times and learned a great deal. First and foremost, I never wanted to fail again.

Haven’t we ALL?


The problem is that we do not find many similar “confessions” from our Principals or Rectors, from our Deans or HoDs – even fewer from our Ministries of Education!

So, to gain a few insights into the real benefits of failure we might need to turn to a few non-educators (for now) – Tim Hartford or Paul Schoemaker, for example. Both Hartford and Schoemaker have published best-sellers recently that openly advocate a more adaptive, experimental approach to the application of trial and error in business – and seek to encourage CEOs and business leaders to view failure as a “gift”. Both of them are great story-tellers and pack their pages with example after example of failures and mistakes from the worlds of business and politics.


Hartford was very canny is choosing the title of his book – “Adapt”. After all, ADAPTation lies at the heart of LEARNing – and, we could argue, at the heart of the human condition itself. He’s obviously, in addition to his amazing level of literacy in allthingseconomics, very well-read in the work of Charles Darwin and draws strongly on the notion of “evolution”.

He points out:

Hartford, and Schoemaker too, both sing the praises of screwing up royally – and help us see that failure is both necessary and useful…for success!

Schoemaker takes this a step further and even suggests that we all need to consider making even more mistakeson purpose. Indeed, this is the whole point of the book and he gives us some great advice on how brilliant (not “dumb”) mistakes can be promoted, planned and “mined” – to maximise the potential for real LEARNing.

It’s so easy to see his point. For example, how many of us would not even be reading this post, if Alexander Flemming had been working in a “no FAILURE zone”:

Half of us would probably be dead!


As I read through Schoemaker’s recommendations, however, I couldn’t help thinking that there would be very few educational institutions ready, willing and able to base their development and strategic planning processes around the concept of “intentional mistake-making”.

Most of them are already scared to death of slipping up – or rather being seen to slip up. This is especially true in our universities and academies (of the ivory tower variety), where even admitting to “LEARNing” is frequently seen as an admission of ignorance – and “weakness”!

Failure (and making mistakes) is an important initial first step in LEARNing and ADAPTation (TRANSFORMation, even) – and few would disagree that most of us do need to tone down our over-use of “risk aversion” and experiment a lot more. However, the purpose of education lies in making meaningful differences to the lives of our learnersand some risks may be just too risky.


Hartford touches on this (albeit through the examples of “nuclear reactors” and banks that were, we assumed, too important to “fail”).

His solution is that we have to also consider making any experiments “survivable” and he draws on Peter Palchinshy’s 3 Principles:

  • Try new things, expecting that some will fail.
  • Make failure survivable: create safe spaces for failure or move forward in small steps.
  • Make sure you know when you have failed, or you will never learn.

Sensible man!


But, as he notes, advocating this type of approach and walking-our-talk are two very different things:


…this requires that we exercise that little “self-doubt muscle” we all have – and stop worrying if others see us exercising!



If you are interested in the “art” of failing or the “beauty” of making mistakes, why not take a look at the following:


21C TEACHERS – their skills, literacies and fluencies…

In Classroom Teaching, Conferences, Technology on 09/03/2012 at 5:45 pm

A few days back, I did a post on the 21C Skills Movement and its impact on teachers…this was essentially a “warmer” for the upcoming conference at Maletepe University in İstanbul (April 14th).

Now, some you cynics out there might have thought that this was a “plug” for the conference and my own keynote!

You’d be righthey, I have already told you that I am not adverse to a bit of “shameless self-promotion – when it’s done right (if nothing else – I am honest)!

But, the other side of the coin is that I genuinely want to support the growth of the 21C Skills Movement – in Türkiye. And, as I said, this type of forum is perhaps the best place to do this.


The “movement”, if we can call it that, has not always had an easy ride:

Luckily, I do not extend “voting rights” to many journalists on my blog – democracy is sometimes over-rated (especially when journos jump all over the ballot box – all to eager to cast their educational vote)!

I’m sure there are many out there in Anatolia (and that other “country” across the water – called İstanbul) that have expressed the same sentiments as Jay. Many of these people (perhaps) also do this for reasons of “shameless self-promotion” (the “wrong” variety) or (more likely) because they are “scared” of the “technology-monster”.


Let’s be clear. 

The “21C Skills Movement” is not simply a TECHNOLOGY Movementit is:




…a LITERACY and FLUENCY Movement


…a LEARNing and TEACHing Movement


It is a movement about ways of LIVING, ways of WORKing and ways of THINKing – and, for educators and teachers, also about making a real difference to the lives of those children, teenagers and young (older ones, too) adults that we LEARN with.

And, how “making” that “difference” needs to evolve over time.


Advocates and supporters of the movement have made their purposes quite clear:


And, while it is true that our current, high-priority literacies and fluencies are being evolved (on steriods) by technology:

…we all know, in our heart of hearts, that they must be contextualised within and aligned with those quintessentially “human literacies” (we have had for centuries) to be “meaningful”:

And, how FLUENT we are in these!


This is because…

TEACHing is ONE of these very jobs…

Anways, enough of all this talk of 21C Skills, Curriculum, Assessment, LEARNing and TEACHing – this post is about “ME” and MY “shameless self promotion”!

…it’s a bit about the pre-conference PLN I wanted to co-create with you!


Remember, the last 21C post I did centered on a few questions I asked people to consider:

  • What skills do TEACHers (in Turkey) need as we continue our march into the 21st Century?
  • How many of these skills actually relate to how we deploy and use TECHNOLOGY?
  • How many of them relate to effective LEARNing and TEACHing?
  • What do TEACHers actually think themselves – and what do their LEARNers think?
  • How effectively is TEACHer (and LEARNer) LEARNing being promoted and supported (in Turkey)?
  • What else needs to change to make the 21st Century “wishlist” a reality?

We have had some pretty interesting contributions (CLICK to take a closer look) to date.


A lot of them discuss “teacher readiness” (and “willingness”) for the broader application of 21C Skills in our schools, colleges and universities – as well as some of the “fears” that many teachers (understandably) have about technology in general. Some of the comments focus on to how we, as teachers and educators, “see” the role technological “tools”. These comments suggest (IMHO) that more teachers in Turkey need to embrace and get comfortable with continuous change by simply making technology a bigger part of their lives and “daily practice”.

However, as I read through the comments I noticed a number of issues that touch on the wider challenges of  professional development (PD) in non-technological areas – and the critical role that these will play in any successful implementation of 21C Skills in our educational institutions.


As such, and as we have now wandered into the “orman” of LITERACIES and FLUENCIES – I thought a few more questions might be in order:

  • What exactly are the literacies and fluencies that we teachers and educators need to prioritise? Are they the same as those our learners need to develop? Are there any that specifically apply to the way we “do” business across education – as teachers?

Breaking that down a little  may help us:

  • What should we “keep” that we already have or do?
  • What do we have or do now that we don’t want to keep?
  • What do we need that we don’t already have or do?
  • What don’t we have or do that we don’t want?

That should keep us going for a while…


As ever, if you are interested in reading more  – here’s a little list of some resouces on allthings21Cskills:

Tony’s 21st CENTURY LEARNing Library

Hope to see some of you at the conference.

UNlearning TEACHer LEARNing…and other rubbish!

In News & Updates (from the CBO), The Paradigm Debate on 07/03/2012 at 9:00 pm

Now, this one…I know…is gonna get me in trouble! 


UNlearning (DUMBest idea ever) Ver 02


There I said it


…I said what thousands of TEACHers are thunking! TEACHers who have been watching really dumb business “thinking” creep into EDUcation for years!

I offer no apologies

…and, I do not care what Alvin Toffler or Jack Uldrich says!


Yes, this time – we have a “real rant” from Tony Hocaand not just because it sounds even DUMBer in Turkish“unutmayı öğrenme”!


If you do not like what I am saying…

SUE me (Ver 02)

And, be “warned” – if anyone wants to disagree with me, my lawyers and I will invoke the EDUcational version of the small penis rule and its equivalent on Venus!

Besides, I have my mum-in-law on my side!


I know we are supposed to show “deference” and “respect” to ancient thinking – and, that the whole idea of unLEARNing goes back to Lao Tzu:

–  for my sins, I have incorporated many of “his” other teachings into my own LEARNing over the years.


But, and here’s the deal…do we even know, one way or the other, if Lao Tzu really walked among the living…if (even) Lao Tzu was a “fella”? Maybe, you never know, “he” was a female of the species…who made her cash on the speaking circuit of Ancient China around the 6th century BCE.

Smart girl! Very smart girl!


A couple of hundred years later Antisthenes also tried to re-brand and re-launch the very same notion – and got more specific:

Socrates was a great teacher but I guess it’s true that the exception proves the ruleAntisthenes may have graduated with a 4.0 GPA from his great mentor’s school but then lots of people with “school smarts” are not always as “smart” as we imagine.


Members of today’s “unLEARNing cult” also point to Thomas Wolsey (Henry VIII’s Cardinal and Lord Chancellor) and use some of his more famous words to make the case for unLEARNing:

Funny really – when I look at this quote, it just reminds me what nonsense it is to suggest that unLEARNing really “exists”


I also know that one of my best “mates” and “drinking buddies”, Leo Tolstoy, also helped these dudes out by throwing a bit of kindle on the more recent unLEARNing fire: 

– but, come on, we know how much he “pushed the envelope” in the vodka department!


What I do not get is when really “cool” EDUthinkers jump on the bandwagon.

Thinkers like Will Robinson (no, not the one from “Lost in Space“), when they talk of the “unLEARNing curve” that teachers have to climb to become 21st Century TEACHers.

The SECRET (Expletive)

Many other academics have chosen to use the conceptwithout even requiring a “definition” of the word. Most of them do not even feel the need to “prove” their “argument” – unless we believe that motherhood statements, fortune cookie platitudes or quotations from dead guys now pass as “research”!


I just find it amazing that so few serious academics (if any) have challenged Uldrich’s suggestion:

I must have “missed” that memo…


And, so it seems did some of the “best” EDUthinkers on the bloody planet – my lawyer (basically, mum-in-law) has suggested I refrain for naming (even more) names (but you know who you are)!

Will, I love you to bits, but – come on, do you really want the phrase “an EDU-Uldrich” to be on your tombstone?


OK, OKlet’s put our cards on the table!

I know that I, too, have been guilty of stroking the ego of those that have “re-brewed” Lao Tzu’s words of “wisdom” (my bad…I was drunk at the time – with Tolstoy)!

– but I have LEARNed and I made a choice…

..and, want to “go public”!


Yes, I am admitting that I too have been guilty of donning the emperor’s clothes…and that I was “naked” for a while (not a pretty sight – any more)!


Sorry, about that…


We do not unLEARN anythingwe do not reLEARN anything. That is, of course, UNLESS we are one of those unfortunate victims of massive brain trauma or suffer from Alzheimer’s disease – my heart goes out to all of these people and their devoted carers.

We just LEARN…and make more informed (or principled) choices!


unLEARNingis a “word bite” (thank you – John) – not even clever enough to be a bloody “sound-bite”Dare I say it (of course, I do)…not even worthy (or long) enough to be put on a “bumper sticker”!

But, hey…people can sell “books” and get some great “speaking gigs” on its back!

Who am I to stand in the way of “progress”…or LEARNing?


I get that politicians find word-bites really sexy. I get that business folks are so busy that anything longer than a bumper-sticker comment takes them away from their profiteering.

But, heck and damnation (my daughter reads this blog…better be careful)…it now appears that these “word-biteteers” can even “develop” public policy in education…and see fit to tell teachers how to “LEARN”…all over the bloody world!

We ARE educators…we know better…we ARE better!

One of my favourite movies is The Usual Suspects – and in this great movie we LEARN that:

Usual Daleks (movie quote TG ver 03)

The greatest “trick” Jack Uldrich seems to have pulled off is to re-convince some of the “best” captains of industry…and, now, academics (who ought to know better) that unLEARNing exists…



BUT, Tony…don’t you think we should say a word or two about upLEARNing?


Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?

In Book Reviews, Our Schools, Technology on 05/03/2011 at 12:54 pm

Today, I got my fingers burnt!

Hot off the press – I thumbed my way through Ian Gilbert’s new book – a book that all educators and, more importantly, students and their parents, should read.

As you know (and as a dad) I have been a supporter of parents’ rights for years – the more we know, the better decisions we can help our kids make. OK – my “big, little girl” would like to see the level of “parentals’ democratic rights” reduced dramatically but in her heart of hearts she knows that this is the thin edge of the wedge for all of us.

Gilbert, as he does in his many other books, tackles many of the issues I raised in my earlier post – For The Times They Are a-Changin’.

Actually, if you want a really good follow-up to this post why not take a look at the very recent videos from:

OK – back to Ian’s wonderful bedtime read. That is if you don’t mind getting your fingers all inked up – I do not!

This question is one that more and more of the “Digital Generation” is asking – and so they should. Thinking is good, questioning is better. And with so many of us “oldies” saying kids are just not the “same” as they were (and meaning kids today are not as “good” as they used to be) – these are the books we should be stuffing in our kids “christmas stockings” or handing out as “Bayram seker”

But, the title of my post is not Gilbert’s only question – the book is full of them.

Actually, it should be titled “questioning the unquestionable”! Gilbert is controversial, he has an irreverent sense of humour (could be my long-lost brother or evil twin – Ian, if you want to do a “soap”, I am your man) and he “hits” hard – just what we need in education nowadays.

However, and for you more academic-types – the book is also amazingly well-researched and smartly-written.

For those of us with intellectual disorders, it’s also “chunked” into bite-sized pieces (super for reading on the bus to work) with a wide range of  appetizing “main courses”:

  • The great educational lie (p. 16)
  • What’s the real point of school (p. 99)
  • Exams – so whose bright idea was that? (p. 112)
  • Teach less, learn more (p. 172)

This is a restaurant I will come back to – again and again!

I learned Gilbert is not only a smooth operator in the “writing stakes”, he is also is also an great “marketeer” – what educator is not going to want to read a book with chapters like this?

I could not put the thing down – true, mostly because I was looking for the chapter that would help me see what he “thunks” about the biggest question and title of the book – it’s not one of his “chapters”, BTW!

Gilbert tells teachers:

This book is not designed to help you teach better. But it is intended to help you become a better teacher.

It will!

Gilbert tells students (indirectly):

The challenges facing the world are huge and the answers lie in your hands.

They do!

One of my favourite “bits” from the book is in the chapter entitled “Educated is not enough” – and he asks a great many tough questions to teachers and parents. So, let you mum and dad have a read, too. Seriously, those of you that may think that parents have no say in your future are just being silly – Steve Jobs dropped out of college because he did not want to “waste” his parents’ life savings.

Guys – you owe your parents. Nuff said! You will thank me for this advice in twenty-years – and donations to my “iron lung” and “diaper fund” are always welcome!

He also asks the question I have been asking for years (I think for principals, this time):

Is yours a teaching school or a learning school?

He does eventually answer the question posed in the title of the book (but I’m not going to tell you where – tee, hee) but also (in chapter 7) reminds us that:

To do well at school means you have to “play by the rules”. To succeed in business you need to “break the rules”.

Is this also true in the “business of education”?

In one of my very first posts, I asked everyone if they would want to read a book that was “full of questions” – I have found that book.

So, should you!


You can find Ian’s book here: Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google?: Things Every Teacher Should Know