Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘educational literacy’

How Good Are Your TEACHers?

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, Teacher Learning on 07/07/2016 at 10:29 am


This is one of the first questions I ask when I sit down with a School Director or Teacher Trainer to develop a new PD (or CPD) initiative at one of our many Schools (both State and Private) and University Prep Schools (Hazırlık – also both State and Foundation) here in Canım Türkiyem.

Questions (Joseph O Connor quote) Ver 03

It’s not a bad question to kick off with, if you believe (as I do) that the talents, skills and savvy of language teachers is one of the critical determining factors in determining the level of LEARNing and success that LEARNers ultimately achieve.


Some TEACHers do not like it!


I guess that is because they assume I am only talking about the quality of their language and that I am taking on the role of the judgy-judger Native Speaker (NS) TEACHer – pushing elitism…and native speakerism!


I’m not – and my question is wider, closer to the advice of David Crystal:

“If I were in charge of a language-teaching institution, I would want to know four things about applicants: are they fluent? are they intelligible? do they know how to analyse language? are they good teachers? I would not be interested in where they were born, what their first language was, or whether they had a regional accent. There are absolutely no grounds for discrimination these days”.


Like David, my question is both about language quality and TEACHing ability – and, for safe measure, it is also about what a TEACHer knows about language / student LEARNing and what s/he does with that knowledge in (and out of) the classroom. It’s a question that touches upon the core ‘Educational Literacies’ that all TEACHers need.

Sith army knife (TG)


However, that question of mine is so often boiled down to a Language TEACHer’s knowledge and skills in English – their ‘Disciplinary Literacy’. And, I’ve been asked (a lot more than once):

So, what should the CEFR / GSE minimum level be – for a TEACHer?




I’ve spent a lot of time thunking this one over, reading journals, and jumping around blogs this year. There are many that are pushing for minimum proficiency levels for TEACHers (including major ELT organisations and those that produce/administer ‘tests’…wonder why, acaba) – especially since the ELT paradigm shift towards performance-based understandings of what it means to ‘know’ a language. There are others who are resisting this idea…for many reasons.

TELLing the truth


Just like we would not want our kids to be taught maths by someone that did not know their multiplication tables (or even use a calculator effectively), the vast majority of LEARNers / administrators / parents (esp. parents) want their language TEACHers to be as good as they can be. Undergraduate TEACHers-to-be want their programmes to prepare them to be the best version of themselves before they step into the classroom. Being able to hear the answer to my question is surely the ‘right’ of each and every one of these critical stakeholders.


The problem is, of course, we all know (well, at least those that have LEARNed a second language) that language is not a finite or clearly defined entity, which you either know in its entirety or not at all. You do not ‘know’ a language in the same way you know ‘content’ – a poem, mathematical theorem or chemical formula. You can only know it more or less thoroughly. I know many people that ‘know’ Turkish grammar far better than I…but still struggle to win a battle with the Tax Office! I’ve also met many TEACHers with off-the-charts ALES scores (the m/c test all TEACHers need to pass to get a job in a Turkish university – and ‘technically’ the only tool these universities can use to hire their TEACHers)…but cannot have a half-decent chat with me!


However, most people seem to agree that language TEACHers need to:

  • be fluent
  • be intelligible
  • know the language they are TEACHing
  • be confident language users
  • know how to analyse language
  • know something about the language their students use (L1)
  • be an active language LEARNer themselves (improving their own language day-by-day)


The question, it seems to me, is how exactly a TEACHer (both NS and NNS TEACHers) ‘knows’ these things about him/herself – and how they ‘evidence’ these abilities to others.

What if 06

What do you thunk – remembering, for now, we are are only talking about the language skills / talents (or ‘Disciplinary Literacy’) of our TEACHers?

  • Could we add anything else to this list?
  • Should there be a minimum proficiency level for TEACHers here in Canım Türkiyem?
  • How should we ‘measure’ this proficiency level (do not say ALES)?
  • If not, how can we ‘know’ exactly how good our TEACHers are?
  • Should NS TEACHers here also be required to demonstrate the same proficiency level?



Tony (logo new) 260316 ACG

REFLECT (and THUNK) Yourself…to GREATness (the RE-boot)!

In Adult Learners, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, Teacher Learning on 26/06/2013 at 12:38 am

big bad İSTANBUL


A couple of you have probably heard that I have “moved” …and have been “celebrating” that around half-a-million folk have dropped into the ole blog (shirously, guys…you have to get a life)!

OK – this post has been one of the favourite “hits” for many of you…and, as part of my 500K celebrations, I decided it needed a “re-boot”…so this is what you get!


Best way to be BORING (Voltaire quote)


Did you KNOW that:


  • 65% of conference attendees believe they LEARN nothing from plenary sessions…
  • 55% of conference attendees prefer the coffee breaks to the break-out sessions they attend…
  • 45% of conference attendees “sneak” off to do a bit of sight-seeing…or shopping…(!)


Did you also know that 33% of statistics are made up on the spot!



OK, OK – my conference “stats” may lack a bit of reliability…but it’s true – we EDUcators do not do our best LEARNing at conferences!

I lke boring things (Warhol quote)


Neyse…. to something totally different!


I have done a great deal of interviewing in my time (karma…previous lives poorly lived, no doubt) – but one interviewee still stands out for me…nearly 13 years after the fact.


I had probably interviewed around 15 candidates on the day I met him – and I was bored to death by people telling me what a great team-player they were…how flexible they could be in difficult situations…and, how they were really “interested” in all our “strategic initiatives” (that weren’t even on the website)!


He popped in (with no tie, I must add) – the “balls” on the guy…and I decided to ask him (first question – right in):

“Tell me why you are a great TEACHer…”!


His response:


Not sure I am that great…I’m good…but I’m good because I LEARN faster than most, I work harder at reflecting than most and I like doing “it” with other TEACHers…


OK – I had to hold back a “giggle” with that last comment (but “humour” is what we look for, too). 


I gave him the job!


TEACHers learn best by REFLECTing:

Classroom reflection (FQs for TEACHers) TG Ver 03


And, they do “it” best with OTHER TEACHers!


A TEACHer’s level of “reflective savvy” is essentially the product of “who they are“; their level of critical literacy, their level of LEARNacy and their level of emotional literacy.



This savvy is critical for the level of EDUcational Literacy that a teacher has – the GOOD news – it is “LEARNable”! And, LEARNable by just doing “it”.

OK – I really have to stop that…


I have to admit…developing your reflective savvy does take time (maybe, it never really stops).


It’s about asking the “right” questionsagain and again. Taking the time tostep back and weigh up what’s really happening around you…within you…as a LEARNing professional.



It’s about working towards greater clarity and understanding – by being “honest“.


BUT, most importantly – it’s about taking ACTION – and ACTION that leads to “improvements” in what you KNOW, what you DO and WHO YOU ARE as an EDUcator.


Many educators do this by asking questions about TEACHing:

These are “great” questions – but are they enough?


We all know that there is a huge difference between asking questions about TEACHing and asking others about LEARNing:


In fact, we can take the same 3 questions and apply them to LEARNing:


If you want…we can even push that boat out a little further…just a little, mind:



WHAT the HELL….in for a pound, in for a penny; Let’s take those THREE little questions and think about:

  • ASSESSMENT (and, TESTING – of course)
  • …the CONFERENCE BUDGET (and how we can spend that money so much more wisely)!


Hey, here’s a whacky idea  – …speak to your HoD and ask her to cancel the “boring administration meeting” she had planned for you all this week!

Get a cup o’ çay (and a biscuit) with your friends…take the time to “sit” and “chat“…and REFLECT!


Einstein and CPD


GO ON…do “it” with another TEACHer today

…you know you’ll have fun!


Got EDUcational Literacy…?

In Assessment, Classroom Teaching, Curriculum, Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning on 09/06/2013 at 10:10 am

Got EdL (TG ver)


I’ve just read Scott Thornbury’s latest (and last) post on his wonderful blog – An A-Z of ELT.

I was gob-smacked!

What a way to go out…with a wonderful list of “must-read” posts!


Not to worry…he’ll have a new one  for us after Summer!


Scott’s blog personifies…for me…the thunks that characterise an educator with a high degree of “fluency” in what I have dubbed EDUcational Literacy (esp. for those in the world of ELT) – just take a look at the 30 posts he highlights in that last post of his!

Soooooo much great “bedtime” reading for the Summer!


Yeah…you guessed it! I was in the middle of doing my own “Sunday Post” when Scott’s landed in my in-box! But, I meant what I said…he just gave me a nice “hook”!


“What exactly is EDUcational Literacy”?


Pretty reasonable question, actually!

In a nutshell:



In a way, Educational Literacy (let’s stick with the abbreviation – EdL) is something that should concern everyone on the planet. Any parent wishing to help his or her child make “wise” decisions about schools, colleges or university – needs to have EdL. Any teacher walking into a classroom (for the “first” or the “50,000th” timeneeds to have a lot of EdL, if she wants to be truly effective.


EdL is something parentsstudentsteacherseducational administrators or anyone involved or interested in the world of learning (including, dare I say, media representativespublishers and politicians) – must have!


In the case of teachersEdL is more than the teaching-related knowledge and skills required to manage a classroom, present content and practice teaching points – that is known as Pedagogic Literacy. Nor is also just our knowledge of grammar, structure and vocabulary (major components of Disciplinary Literacyin the world of ELL and ELT).

It touches on a teacher’s beliefs and values, the way she interacts with her learners and the extent to which she reflects on her own practice – to grow professionally and create even “better” LEARNing opportunities for those around her.

As such, EdL is a multi-dimensional construct – a true “multiple literacy”. It is not simply the product of adding to “a stack of facts and figures” or throwing more tools into “a bag o’ tricks” – it is experienced and lived through the synaptic-type interrelationships between a number of literacies (and fluencies)…


EdL is also something that many people (sadly) do not possess – and this is what lies at the heart of many of the challenges we face in education.

For example:

  • Parents that tell teachers that their job is to “create” an engineer or doctor out of “Little Mehmet” – have low levels of EdL…sorry mum (and dad)!
  • Students that “blame” their failure on a given exam or the “academic clubs” that manipulate exam cut-offs – have low levels of EdL…sorry guys, time to take some responsibility (unless, that is, their educators also happen to have low levels of “Assessment Literacy”)!
  • Lecturers and teachers that do not even bother to learn the names of their students or “care” what these students “bring” to the classroom – have low levels of EdL…no apologies required here!
  • Educational Managers (up to and including Principals and Rectors) who value their “seat” more than the LEARNing of their learners and still fail to see the importance of “walking-the-talk” – have low levels of EdL…guys, just move aside (the 21stCentury is here)!
  • Schools that live off the “fat” (or prestige) of the “past” or try to “fake-it-till-they-make-it” – have amazingly low levels of EdL…time to “get real” and evidence what you “say” you “are”!
  • Media representatives that report the “league tables” without helping students and their parents to ask the right questions about how the “rankings” were carried out – have no EdL wotsoever…come on, guys – earn your pay-cheques!
  • Publishers who tell educators/teacher-trainers to put on a “show” and not bother with all that “LEARNing stuff” – fail the “EdL test”…totally…!
  • Politicians…Mmmmm…hey, who the hell said it was possible to “save every soul”!?!?


You get the idea!


EdL is essentially “realized” (and developed or learned) through the application of Critical Literacy to allthingseducation – critical reflection as applied to LEARNing and TEACHing.


However, because of the very nature of both LEARNing and TEACHingEdL has a powerful emotional componentEdL appreciates that EDUcation and LEARNing are fundamentally “emotional experiences” that require Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) is also brought to bear on matters of LEARNing and TEACHing.

EdL (Care and Emotions)


This is why LEARNing and TEACHing professionals need to exhibit high levels of Emotional Literacy:

  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Emotional memory
  • Emotional problem-solving ability
  • Emotional learning ability

and, to borrow from Gardner:

  • “Intrapersonal Intelligence”
  • “Interpersonal Intelligence”


With so many abilities, skills and talents required of TEACHerstell me again:


I must have missed that memo!


EdL thus describes what an individual (especially EDUcators) “thinks” or “knows” about EDUcation, LEARNing and TEACHing, what s/he “does” with what s/he knows and also what s/he does to “improve” what s/he knows, does and feels in regard to allthingsEDUcation.



EdL also respects the role of theprofessional teacher – and what an “effective” teacher can do with what s/he can do with what s/he knows – as such, Pedagogic Literacy is also a focus of its attention, as is Curriculum Literacy and Assessment Literacy.

The problem is, taking Assessment Literacy as an example:


Assessment Literacy is perhaps the best-known of the components that make up EdL – well, in educational reading circles at least. It has been described in the following way:

Assess Lit 01

BUT…I have to admitI prefer this one:

Assess Lit 02


If most of us were really, really honest…we’d recognise that we all need to do a bit of LEARNing in this area – especially, when we remember these two little thunks

Assess Lit 03

And…then…we have the matter of Curriculum Literacy!

from A1 to B2 (in 9 months)


Have YOU…has YOUR school (and its leaders):


Got EdL (TG ver)


Scott does! Thanks for the thunks. brother…


Educational Literacy…for the 21st Century

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Training, Uncategorized on 19/01/2012 at 2:53 pm

So, there I am in Cambridge…and I can’t get to sleep. What to do?


Well, actually it’s more like “draft-blog” because I realise I do not have my “image portfolio” with me – a “naked post” I cannot do!

I’m back home (for 6 hours) and can now “dress” this post…

When I first started blogging, I came across a great little bit of advice: 

Thinking back over my last few posts (all written for teacher trainers…or those thinking of taking the leap), I was quite pleased to see how many people “felt” me.

An issue is, however, that right now my inbox overfloweth – and because blogging is also about the “social” so I thought I’d reply to a couple of questions that these posts seem to have raised:

1. Yes, I did “make up” (though I do prefer the lexical items ”co-create” or “coin”) the phrase Educational Literacy (EdL)…

2. No, there is no “research” to back up my “claims” (not that I thought I was making any, really)…

3. Yes, the “ideas” in a number of the posts are “different” – please see no. 1 above (I am “making this up” as I “blog along”…and I kinda like seeing how things “evolve”)!

But, come on…I did come up with a definition:

And, I took the time to come up with a neat 3-point “sound bite” to make it look “sexy“!

In a nutshell, the whole idea of Educational Literacy, at least for me, just makes “sense”and besides, all the “lists” I kept adding to were just getting too long.

For me, being a teacher is one of the best ways to “serve” othersserve the community, serve the future and, well, be “useful”. However, one cannot be useful as a teacher if you do not know your “stuff” – this is where Disciplinary Literacy comes in.

For example, we wouldn’t send someone into a maths class, if they could not add up, would we? In ELL contexts, it’s the same – but, we also have to remember:

Pedagogic Literacy is also kinda important – just as we we would not sign up a bunch of researchers for an academic project (if they had not been “trained” in allthingsresearch), we would not send a PhD into a classroom full of undergraduates if they didn’t have a clue about “teaching” – would we?

OK – bad example!

All “teachers” need to also know stuff about teaching – they need to be able to “do” stuff with what they know about teaching – and, I may be pushing it here, they need to be able to get better at what they do with the stuff they know.

Do you feel me?

 The problem is, of course, that:

…and, as such, Learning Literacy  is perhaps a more critical literacy (and fluency) than that of the pedagogic variety.

LEARNing is about so much more “stuff” than just “being taught”:

…but, perhaps more than this, what is critical is that a teacher recognises that LEARNing has to take “centre” stage in any consideration of TEACHing Literacy – after all:

…and, I’m guessing you can all “add” a few things to this “list”!

Then, of course, there are the Literacies of Curriculum and Assessment. Why the hell we think that a teacher can be “effective” without knowing a lot of stuff about these (and, more importantly, being able to “do” even more stuff with this ability set) – is beyond me.

However, we still have a very large number of “teacher education programmes” that do little more than scratch the surface of the “knowledge” required in these key areas. And, when they do, it is mostly the declarative variety that is “delivered” to our “teachers-in-training” – through “lectures” or information that is simply “dumped” on webpages.

Effective teachers are highly “literate” in all these components of EdLeven if they do not fully recognise it themselves. Some are “naturals” – but there are many others who have worked (very) hard to make explicit all that makes them “tick”.

I’ve often thought that this kinda begs the $1,000,000 question:

Ne se!

These teachers are characterised by what could be best be described (I think Carl Rogers may have said this) as “self-doubt” – but self-doubt partnered with a large helping of “reflective savvy“:

Savvy that comes from the powerful combination of:

These “human” literacies are critical to effective teaching (LEARNing and training, too):

…indeed, we could probably argue that these literacies are required by every “thinking doer” in every single “caring profession” (and maybe even a few of the not-so-caring variety)!

OK – that’s probably as many literacies as we can all manage!

But, hang on – those truly effective teachers (like those in Hollywood movies – when Hollywood decides we need a bit of educational inspiration) are not only “literate” – they are truly “fluent” in these Literacies. They “do” their “stuff” without thinking – bit like driving a car…

Common-sense really…

Wait a minute, Tony! What does all this have to do with the 21st Century – and where’s all the stuff about EdTech Literacies (and Fluencies)?

Ahhhhhh, that’s for another post!

Getting FLUENT with the 5 FLUENCIES…

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Schools on 01/11/2011 at 3:56 pm

A couple of weeks ago we 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 three posts:

…and I promised that the forth would outline the “spirit” of the 5 Fluencies. Unable to edit down 6 chapters on my own, I got a “help me” message to Ian this morning…

In less than an hour he had done this – Ian, you are “the man”!


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 leadership, ethics, accountability, fiscal responsibility, environmental awareness, global 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.

Do our schools speak LEARNing as a “first” or a “second” language?

In Our Schools, Our Universities, Technology, The Paradigm Debate on 16/10/2011 at 11:12 am

In essense, this is a question that goes all the way back to the seminal paper (now over 15 years old) penned by Barr and Taggstill one of my favourite articles – EVER! And it has links to some other critical questions:

Are our schools, colleges and universities LEARNing institutions or TEACHing institutions?

Do our schools, colleges and universities “teach” STUDENTS or “teach” COURSES?


As well as some other more heavy-duty questions:

We could push the boat out a little further and ask:

Do our institutions HAVE a perspective on TEACHing or do they TAKE a TEACHing perspective?

Do our institutions HAVE a perspective on LEARNing or do they TAKE a LEARNing perspective?

Obviously, these are “huge” questions (far smarter women than I have been trying to address these over the years) – and certainly questions that can not be answered in a single blog-post (however “non-lazy” it may be – this time around)…


My interest in whether schools (and teachers) “speak”:

LEARNing as a First Language (LFL), or

LEARNing as a Second Language (LSL)

…really started when I was asked to lead a discussion on the “digital divide” at a conference in Antalya (around 6 months ago).

In that presentation I used a C-NET video that was really popular at the time (you have to click n’ view – Clementine is so “sweet”). More recently, another YOU-tube video (go on – click n’ view) has surfaced – a video that suggests that I might have been right (but I really do not want to be “that guy” – you know, the guy that says “I told you so” – na, nah, na, na, nah…)


The point I was trying to make in the session I led was that there is more than a word of truth in the claims that today’s kids really do “speak”:

DIGITAL as a First Language (DFL)… 

…while there are many of us (not just in the world of teaching) that “speak”: 

DIGITAL as a Second Language (DSL)…

I did note that all the chatter about digital “natives” and immigrants” is perhaps a bit overstated (you have to read the great paper written by Zur and Zur on this).


However, when we really take a look at today’s digital natives – it not only that they speak DFL that is important…they have become “bilingual” and speak both DFL and LSL.

Of course, there are those around that might dispute this claimand say human beings have been doing this for yearswithout the “tech”.

TRUE – but the point is that this type of technology is everywhere, it is getting easier to use and it can help us learn more faster than ever before! And, more importantly, kids are using more of it at “home” than they are at “school”…

Would we really have seen a baby getting “frustrated” that the pictures in her mommy’s glossy magazine can’t be “flipped” last year?


This bi-lingual, digitally-enabled “army” is getting ready to take the playgrounds of our schools by stormsooner than we all think (in fact, in some countries the invasion is well under way).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that we all have to mindlessly pull every bit of hardware we can get our hands on into our classrooms. I have said before…and I repeat:

It’s about the language, dummy!


The “grammar” and “lexis” used by those who speak LFL is very different to those who speak TEACHing as a First Language (TFL):


How many of our schools, colleges and universities have:

Taken a “students-eye-view” of what the world of LEARNing and TEACHing should look like in our institutions…

Reflected on the implications of this at the level of school leadership and culture…

Conducted the type of “cultural anthropology” and made the type of “appropriate adjustments” recommended by Zur and Zur.

Modified the way they “do the business” of curriculum and assessment planning (at a systemic, whole-school level)

Adapted their learning environments and classrooms to mirror these – hell, even bothered to modify how “timetables” are built…

Many institutions have…..

Many others are starting to get to grips with these challenges….

BUT “most” have not!


Sure, there are many schools and colleges that are talking about the impact of the 21st century transformative moment

…and battle lines are often drawn across the playground by those who have become very fluent in DSL and those who are still struggling to put a sentence together.

The problem with this is that it often creates another divide…and “fear“!

Does this really help us all out…seriously?

We often come across “tourists” who do not have a solid command of the language of the host-country they are visiting…trying to buy stuff in shops. Sometimes they struggle with the currency and can’t tell the $5 bill from the $50 bill. If they are lucky, they fall into the hands of a decent, honest shop-keeper or store assistant…if not, you know the rest!

In much the same way, hundreds of educational institutions have sought to “buy” themselves out of the problems being created by the so-called “digital divide” – and we are seeing that much of this expenditure just throws good money after bad.


The problem is…these institutions often have a very “thick accent“, get mixed up with “appropriate collocations” or drop a critical “helping verb” or two while they are chatting. However, for many of them – the REAL issues are their values, beliefs and assumptions about what works best…and what matters.

Far too many institutions have not explored many of the critical questions I noted at the very start of this little blog-post, they have not engaged their communities – and, they still believe in “silver bullet recipes” and “magic“.


We cannot hope to get to the place where we all TAKE a LEARNing perspective (or get fluent in another language) without asking a few questions…


Think this one needs a SEQUEL

…(or five)!


If you are interested in the two earlier posts, click n’go: 



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

In Book Reviews, Our Schools, Technology on 10/10/2011 at 11:49 am

Another “guest-post” from Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes and Andrew Churchesshared (with permission) from their new bookLiteracy is NOT Enough”.

Today, it’s essential that all of our students have a wide range of skills beyond those that were needed in the 20th century, a range that includes the skills needed to function within a rapidly changing society.

Ironically enough, we are already more than a decade into the 21st century but are still debating what 21st-century skills are and what 21st-century teaching should look like. Yet an interesting global consistency exists.

We consult with stakeholders at many levels and in many countries, including parents, educators, administrators, businesspeople, and government officials, who all ask this same question:

“What skills will students need most to succeed in the 21st century?”

Take a moment and ask yourself this same question. What is your answer? Next, ask this question to your colleagues. Ask it at your next staff meeting!

Time and time again, we hear exactly the same answers. It doesn’t matter what country we’re in. It doesn’t matter who the stakeholders are. Consistently, these are the answers we hear most:

  • Problem solving: Students need the ability to solve complex problems in real time.
  • Creativity: Students need to be able to think and creatively in both digital and non-digital environments to develop unique and useful solutions.
  • Analytic thinking: Students need the ability to think analytically, which includes facility with comparing, contrasting, evaluating, synthesizing, and applying without instruction or supervision and being able to use the higher end of Bloom’s taxonomy.
  • Collaboration: Students must possess the ability to collaborate seamlessly in both physical and virtual spaces, with real and virtual partners globally.
  • Communication: Students must be able to communicate, not just with text or speech, but in multiple multimedia formats. They must be able to communicate visually, through video and imagery, in the absence of text, as actively as they do with text and speech.
  • Ethics, Action, Accountability: This cluster includes responses such as adaptability, fiscal responsibility, personal accountability, environmental awareness, empathy, tolerance, and many more. Though the language may vary a little, every group of stakeholders (parents through national-level officials) give us more or less the same answers.


The Problem…

Our schools were designed for an era in which three-quarters of the population were employed in agriculture and manufacturing jobs. Those times are gone forever, but our educational institutions still embrace traditional structures, traditional organization, traditional instruction, standardized learning, and standardized testing at the same time that our economy is eliminating standardized jobs.

Today, three-quarters of our workforce are working in creative-class and service-class professions. If we want our students to survive, let alone thrive, in the culture and the workplace of the 21st century, literacy is not enough. It is critical that our students develop 21st-century skills.

In fact, we would go so far as to say that these skills are more important than most of the traditional content taught in the curriculum today.



The Solution…

We want to take a moment to make an important distinction. It’s actually our mindsets that we need to shift. There is a reason we use the term 21st-century fluencies and not 21st-century literacy or 21st-century skills.

Think about the difference between these terms.

When we are at the level of literacy with a language, we are able to communicate. However, our focus is on the structure of the language, on the translation, on the pronunciation, and on getting the words out. When we are fluent with a language, the concepts flow from our brain and out of our mouths. The process is transparent to us.

Our focus is on our thinking of what we want to say and not on the translation or the pronunciation. As a result, we are much more effective at expressing our true intention.

The same holds true for children who are learning to write. Their focus is on forming letters and using the tools of pencil and paper. But as we grow older and use these tools every day, the tools and the process become irrelevant. Our thoughts go directly from our minds through the tool, whether pencil or keyboard, to the medium.

The literacy level does not contain the fundamental skills our students need for their life beyond school. We need to raise the bar. Our goal should be the fluency level – the level at which these skills have become internalized to the point of transparency, where the skills become part of the unconscious process and do not stand in the way.

We need to move our thinking and our training beyond our primary focus and fixation on the Three Rs — beyond traditional literacy to an additional set of 21st-century fluencies, skills that reflect the times we live in.

How we learn reading, writing, and mathematics has changed. In the age of multimedia, hypertext, blogs, and wikis, reading is no longer just a passive, linear activity that deals only with text, with reading literature, manuals, workbooks, computer screens, or technical instructions. At the same time, writing has also changed and is no longer just about being able to communicate effectively with pen, paper, and text. Writing has moved beyond just creating traditional reports, filling out forms, or making written instructions. Math is about more than simply memorizing and applying formulae, definitions, and algorithms.

What’s NEXT? 

By now, we are sure that you share with us the understanding of the pressing need to cultivate 21st-century fluencies in every student. When we first started discussing how to do this and how to assist educators in making it happen, we quickly realized that we needed a process or system that educators could use with their students.

It’s easy for us to say, “Kids need problem-solving skills.” But this begs these questions:

  • What do these fluencies look like?
  • What do they look like in the real world?
  • What do they look like in my classroom?
  • How do I teach them?
  • How do students learn them?
  • How can I assess them?

We had the same questions.

In “Learning is NOT Enough” we have tried to share our thoughts on the 21st-century fluencies – and worked to develop structured processes for the skills we defined earlier. These processes can be taught, they can be learned, and they can be internalized by your students.


We’ll outline some of these in a couple of follow-up posts soon.

REMEMBER, also, these aren’t just for the students. The 21st-century fluencies are process skills that we all need, and there is as much benefit in cultivating them within yourself as within your classroom.

What is EDUCATIONAL LITERACY? – another DVD Box-Set…

In Educational Leadership, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Training on 09/10/2011 at 10:12 am

In a number of our recent posts, we have been exploring the notion of Educational Literacy (EdL) – and a few of you have been asking for more on what exactly EdL is:

Simple enough, yes? But, we have also been working to demonstrate that:

All the talk of “mushrooms” has probably thrown a spanner or two into the works so I thought I’d go back to the very beginninghence the DVD Box-Set.

As usual, this summarises a lot of the posts that relate to this topic – so just hit the red hot-links to see the full post.



In one of our very first posts, we discussed the importance of:

I did, of course, link this to the work of Guy Claxton and his call for educators to get busy building up the ResilienceResourcefulnessReflectiveness and Reciprocy our learners need.

I have elaborated on Claxton’s work in another post – and shared a few great links with everyone:


Quite a few people thought that I had not really talked enough about “teachers” – so I corrected this:

But noted that perhaps:


It was that post (drawing on the ideas of Knowles) that took us a little deeper into the world of “andragogy” and adult LEARNing. Now, this was not really an area we had decided to look into in much detail – but we then discovered that we were having to explore the notions of literacy/fluency, “cooking” and oh, yes – teacher LEARNing!

Now, you see where the mushrooms come in!


What dawned on us, however, was that we were really discussing how LEARNing (or rather “learnacy” – again, another gem from Guy Claxton) had impacted the way we “see” the “effective” teacher.

This meant that, perhaps, we had to discuss the notion of Educational Literacy (EdL) in more specific terms:


The “title” of the above trilogy suggested, to some, that we were talking about allthingstechnology– we were not!


But, we have tried to clarify this in a more recent post:


There will probably be more of this over time

Adaptation – the “art” & “science” of LEARNing

In Conferences, Our Universities, Research on 02/10/2011 at 2:06 pm

I’ve just returned from a trip to İstanbullove the place, hate the place, love the place, hate the place…OK…let’s stay with the “love”)!

The trip was mostly to attend a conference on “Adaptation” hosted by Yeni Yüzyıl Üniversitesi for those lovely people at the Association of Adaptation Studies.

Location, location, location… the Anadolu Kulübü on Büyükada (…love İstanbul…love the Princess Islands…love the fact that they do not allow cars on the island)! Brilliant…just brilliant.

The full title of the conference was – THE INTELLECTUAL SILK ROAD: CROSS-MEDIA and CROSS-CULTURAL ADAPTATIONS – but even before I arrived, I was feeling like a “gate-crasher” at a wedding!

But, hang on – “the AAS” (yes, almost an unfortunate acronym there, if you do not spell it out) is an “Akademe community” and we all know that these communities thrive on discussion of all the THREE pillars of the university “purpose”:

They’d asked me along (with Şahika and Şebnem, from Ankara University) to run a LEARNing and TEACHing “show” – and balance the scorecard on the EDUcation front.

I’d taken a look at the conference planner – and nearly died when I saw some of the titles. How could LEARNing and TEACHing “compete” with:

  • The Oriental as Absence in Minghella’s The English Patient
  • Traveling East: Orientalism and the Costume Drama
  • Adaptive Performances: ReViewing Cross-Cultural Adaptation Through Performance Studies

or even,

  • Constructing the British Hero by Exclusion: Adaptation and the Colonization of Sherlock Holmes

In truth, Sherlock beat us hands down (in terms of attendees)!

I thought it might have been all my fault – afterall, I did begin my paper by noting my very clear “bias” towards allthingslearning in the “university”:

  • Student LEARNing is the inescapable bottom line for a university…
  • …and the LEARNing produced is the most important result a university can achieve.

I also touched on a couple of “truths” that many in the Akademe do not enjoy “hearing”:

And then, the question no academic wants to hear (I was “quoting”, guys):

Come on – “fair dos”; I mean no self-respecting university-based research team would “hire” someone who had not been “trained” in the art and science of allthingsresearch (and have a string of citations) – so why should we think it’s OK to put “teachers” into lecture theatres and classrooms without some “training” or evidence of Educational Literacy and TEACHing skills?

I think they “got” that – and nobody threw anything at me!

I was also surprised that so few flinched when I “translated” the three pillars into what we all know happens in most universities:

I must admit – I did get a bit of a “response” when I noted Pope’s critique of the Ivies and their clones:

But was saved by a giggle or two when we brought Pope’s view “home” with a very real example:

I still maintain that Harvard should lose its “teaching license” for that one alone! Besides, “academic feedom” being what it is – even ex-Rectors and ex-Deans from Harvard can make a pretty penny from books exposing far more than I ever could

Obviously, the “model” of adaptation that I was discussing is very different to the the understandings and conceptualısations that “adaptation insiders” have – what I was saying was that “adaption is an essential part of the human condition“:

I think (and LEARN), therefore I adapt!


And, for educators that want to make a real difference to lives of others:




The funny thing was that participants would have only heard these things if they had come along to the session – this left me wondering why so many of the conference participants would not want to come to a session on LEARNing and TEACHing

Especially, as some told me later – 50 to 70% of their workload is frequently given over to TEACHing…OK – most of them were younger TAs (and their “average” was 85% of their time – allowing their “senior profs” to “publish, publish, publish”)…

What the conference LEARNed me was that perhaps we need more papers on allthingslearning – at more conferences! And, perhaps…we need more people to get excited about LEARNing and TEACHingand how we can all do it better!

Thank you Günseli and Laurence – for being so brave!


The highlight of the session for me, however, was seeing Şahika and Şebnem “translate” all this into “practice”. Their session was an honest, open and frank exposé of their “adaptation journey” to the role of “teacher trainers” over the past 2 years.

They described their motivations for wanting to embark on such an adaptive journey – they noted their fears, insecurities and frustrations over the whole process – and, they outlined how they had grown as professional LEARNing educators (and how they still continue to “adapt” today).

They communicated these ideas with passion and authencity – presenting themselves as “real people“, asking participants to get involved (and reflect on their own experiences) and using powerful and effective visuals to tell their stories.

Ohhh, if only all conference presenters had the same level of “visual literacy”… and common sense!

They won’t mind me telling you this – but this was their first major presentation at an International Conference. They not only kicked “Sherlock’s ass” in terms of engagementbut also in terms of relevance to the lives of all educators and “what matters” in education!


Post-script…for all you lovely ineks!

What exactly is “Adaptation Studies”?

I asked myself this question when I was first approached to do a session at the Silk Road conference. Being a simple man…I always looked at “adaptation” in terms of  “human transformation”! Being a bit of a “part-time film-buff” (and an “older” comic book “geek”)…I knew of many of the woes of filmmakers trying to do justice to so-and-so’s book (and the way directors are so often “slated” by critics and academics – for just doing what they do)…Being an avid learner…had to find out more!

Besides, I guessed I would have to “chew the adaptation fat” over a glass of red (or several)…on Büyükada!

My first port of call was Linda Hutcheon’s “A Theory of Adaptation” – I really did not think I would have the stamina to get through Robert Stam’s “three volumes” (though I’m sure he’s a great bloke). What Linda learned me was that I had to “get” that I could not truly understand “adaptation” by thunking about novels and movies aloneSmart woman that Linda…she learned me that I could also look at pop songs, fairy tales and even roller-coasters (OK – that one took me a few re-reads).

So, adaptation is not only about book (or movie) LEARNing – it touches on “real life”…told you she was a smart cookie!

The problem was – I left the book without finding the “theory” that the title promised me! Little did I know that I was not alone…

Someone else told me that Julie Sanders’ (2006) book – Adaptation and Appropriation – was the “bible”. So, I took a gander. What that individual did not tell me…was that I would have to learn a “whole new lexicon”…

OMG…recontextualization, tradaptation, reduction, simplification, condensation, abridgement, special versioning, reworking, remediation,  and re-visioning. We then move onto inter-semiotic, intra-lingual and inter-lingual adaptations – not to mention interpretants (including both the “formal” and “thematic” varieties)! Oh, yes and all that talk about “orientalism”, “aesthetic politics” and “cultural imperialism”. On “wiki” this shit is not…

OK – not all of this fell from Julie’s book (more the sources she directed me to). She is another very smart woman…

I had kinda worked out (a fair few years back) that “nowt is original” – everything is adapted and appropriated (or “robbed” as we used to say when I was a kid growing up in North Manchester). What I did not know was how confused researchers in Adaptation Studies seem to be – all those bloody “theoretical movements” just getting in the way, all that baggage from Translation Studies, all that…

This was brought home to me at the conference itself – I just did not “get” (or perhaps “care” enough) why everyone was running around screaming “We need a THEORY of adaptation”…. – all I could say was “just bloody do it, then”…

As I said, I am a simple man…and I can be a bit “thick” from time to time! It just seemed to me that all this talk of the “silver bullet” was…a bit of a storm-in-a-teacup.

But, then – who am I to judge?

Although many academics and commentators have been considering the issues related to allthingsadapatation for over 50 years, it seems that “Adaptation Studies” is “new” – all bright and shiny!

Who would’ve thunk it?

The problem seems to be (IMHO) that it is a bright and shiny “teenager” wrestling to assert its independence from its overbearing mother, “Translation Studies” (and all her “theories”), and the not-always-present father, “Intertextuality”.

The problem is that this “teenage rebel”, as with all teenagers, is “synaptically-disabled” (my daughter always hated it when I said this to her – at the age of 21, she now agrees). Its supporters seem to be saying that “if only” Adaptation Studies could just get a fırmer handle on its “theoretical framework” – all would be well in the world!

Not so sure, I am…but maybe I need an “expert brain” to comment on this!


In Classroom Teaching, Conferences, Teacher Training on 27/09/2011 at 12:38 pm

Did you know that:

  • 65% of conference attendees believe they learn nothing from plenary sessions…
  • 55% of conference attendees prefer the coffee breaks to the break-out sessions they attend…
  • 45% of conference attendees “sneak” off to do a bit of sight-seeing…or shopping…(!) time!


Did you also know that 33% of statistics are made up on the spot!


OK, OK – my conference stats may lack a bit of reliability…but it’s true – we educators do not do our best LEARNing at conferences!


I have done a great deal of interviewing in my time (karma…for previous lives poorly lived, no doubt) – but one interviewee still stands out for me…nearly 12 years after the fact.

I had probably interviewed around 15 candidates on the day I met him – and I was bored to death by people telling me what a great team-player they were…how flexible they could be in difficult situations…and, how they were really “interested” in all our “strategic initiatives” (that weren’t even on the website)!

He popped in (with no tie, I must add – the “balls” on the guy) and I decided to ask him (first question – right in):

“Tell me why you are a great teacher…”!

His response:

Not sure I am that great…I’m good…but I’m good because I learn faster than most, I work harder at reflecting than most and I like doing “it” with other teachers…

OK – I had to hold back a “giggle” with that last comment (but “humour” is what we look for, too). I gave him the job!


TEACHERS learn best by reflecting:

And, they do do “it” best with OTHER TEACHERS!


A teacher’s level of “reflective savvy” is essentially the product of “who they are“; their level of critical literacy, their level of learnacy and their level of emotional literacy.

This savvy is critical for the level of Educational Literacy that a teacher has – the GOOD newsit is “LEARNable”! And, LEARNable by just doing “it”.

OK – I really have to stop that

I have to admit…developing your reflective savvy does take time (maybe, it never really stops).

It’s about asking the “right” questions…again and again. Taking the time to “step back” and “weigh up” what’s really happening around you…within you…as a LEARNing professional.

It’s about working towards greater clarity and understanding – by being “honest“. BUT, most importantly – it’s about “taking ACTION” – and ACTION that leads to “improvements” in what you KNOW, what you DO and WHO YOU ARE as an educator.


Many educators do this by asking questions about TEACHing:

These are “great” questions – but are they enough?


We all know that there is a huge difference between asking questions about TEACHing and asking others about LEARNing:


In fact, we can take the same 3 questions and apply them to LEARNing:


If you want…we can even push that boat out a little further…just a little, mind:


WHAT the HELL….in for a pound, in for a penny; Let’s take those THREE little questions and think about:

  • ASSESSMENT (and, TESTING – of course)
  • …the CONFERENCE BUDGET (and how we can spend that money so much more wisely)!


Hey, here’s a whacky idea…  – …speak to your HoD and ask her to cancel the “boring administration meeting” she had planned for you all this week! Get a cup o’ tea (and a biscuit) with your friends…take the time to “sit” and “chat”…and REFLECT!


GO ON…do “it” with another teacher today…you know you’ll have fun!