Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘Tony Gurr’

Do we really need more “Why Guys” (n’ Gals) in EDUcation?

In Classroom Teaching, News & Updates (from the CBO), Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 12/05/2012 at 11:02 am

When I first decided to take the leap into the blogosphere (16 months back), I read every single “top blog” on the web – 6 to 8 times…and then, again!

I was looking for the “secret”you know, that “magic ingredient”

I read pages and pages of the advice offered by the so-called social media gurus. Although a lot of this advice annoyed the hell out of me (“education” and “business” are not always the best of bed-fellows), all the best bloggers kept advising me to come back to the same point…what is the PURPOSE of your blog?

I actually liked that…it made sense to who I like to think I am as a man, as a teacher, as a thinker!

Obviously, my blog was always going to be about EDUcation (or COOKing, perhaps)! Funny thing is, I probably would have a got a lot more “hits”, if I had gone with the latter…ne se (and Google Translate still “sucks”)!

The problem was that I am soooooo interested in soooooo many things…classroom practice, technology, leadership, performance improvement, language development, cognitive growth, assessment, curriculum, innovation, teacher education…

In the end, I did go back to PURPOSE…I went back to LEARNing. That was the “line” that seemed to connect all my “dots”.

I drew up my little manifesto…and have always tried to stay true to that.



The thing is – this PURPOSE keeps bringing me back to the notion of:


This is why I loved the idea of the Why Guy (click on this – great video) when I first stumbled onto it – OK; it was not really “that” Why Guy (though it is a fun video clip). The term was (from what I was able to dug up) the brain-child of Mike Castellucci – and it has been picked up by a huge range of organisations and web-based thinkers.


Seth Godin (one of the Blogging Jedi Masters I researched many moons ago) has recently done a post on the importance of having these “guys” (and “gals”) in every institution around the globe…

Seth tells us we need to be asking more questions like:

  • Why does it work this way?
  • Why is that our goal?
  • Why did you say no?
  • Why are we treating people differently?
  • Why is this our policy?
  • Why don’t we enter this market?
  • Why did you change your mind?
  • Why are we having this meeting?
  • Why not?

He’s right – totally right – and those of you that know this blog well will know the types of questions I love to ask…and love others to ask themselves.


Being a “Why Gal” is extremely important for anyone in a LEADership role – we know that everyone is a “boss-watcher” and if you want a “thinking team” you gotta “walk-your-whys”.

TEACHers are leaders – and students are “TEACHer watchers”. If you want to help co-create thinking studentsyou gotta be a “Why Gal” (or “Guy”) in the classroom

You just knew one of these was a-comin’…


I need to tell you a little story about something that happened this week.

You know I have been coaching a few teachers in observation and feedback skills of late. Normally, when I do this type of work – we look at best practices across a whole range of disciplines and practice a few reflection and feedback skills in a more “controlled” environment – then we “step it up”.

This week I stepped it up with two of my favourite “reflectors” – I asked them to observe each other’s class and then take the role of “observer” and give feedback to the “observee” (with me there to “feed back” on the “feedback”). They were both ready – they have established a great LEARNing partnership, they care about each other deeply and they have become really skilled at asking the “right” questions.

The feedback and reflection session went “south” so quickly…it would have made your head spin!

…because of the bloody question “Why”!


Sure, “Why?” is a great question – but it also the type of question that can send us all into a “Freudian panic” faster than Mitt Romney can change his position on just about any issue that matters…to US voters.


A lot of this goes back to how we have been trained to “hear” what the word “why” actually means:

  • Mummy: Why did you do that? I told you what would happen…
  • Daddy: Why didn’t you ace that test? Just a “C”…just a “C”…
  • Grandma: You didn’t do it…Why not? What’s wrong with you…?

Philip Larkin wrote a great poem about how families “condition” us to certain ways of thinking…sadly many institutions continue with this tradition.


Coming back to TEACHersgiving each other “feedback” – look at these:

WHYI giggled a bit as I typed that…do you think a TEACHer might not want to “hear” the red questions, acaba (good save – Google Translate)?


The “Why Guy” is important (in the right context, with the right relationship) – but, we also need the “How Gal”…a gal who knows how to get the “best” out of others. 

…but, most importantly, we need the “How-Do-We-Know-Guy”!

The Cornerstones of TEACHer LEADership

In Classroom Teaching, Educational Leadership on 07/05/2012 at 5:16 pm


This morning, as I was doing a bit of surfing (you know, the virtual type), I popped into one of my favourite teacher sitesVenspired (from Krissy Venosdale aka @ktvee).

I saw the first few lines of her latest post:

“What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m just a TEACHer.”


OMG! This is not the Krissy I have come to know and lovehang on, the next line read:

Have you ever said that? It’s only true if you believe it.


That’s better – take a look at the full post – then, come back!


Didn’t you just love what her little “World Changer” did? Didn’t you just love the LEADership her little “World Changer” demonstrated…and how that made Krissy feel?


Palmer QUOTATION - Circle of Trust


A few weeks ago, I was running a session with a group of trainers-in-training – and we wandered into the whole area of teacher LEADership.

This was not really planned…at all!

One of the participants said she was a bit uncomfortable referring to herself as a “LEADer”.

“I’m not a leader…I’m just a TEACHer…who wants to be a TRAINer!”

She told me.

Many of the other participants agreed.

I stopped the session…we had hit a “LEARNing moment…but I wasn’t ready for it!


Luckily there was a “phone box” in the room (my hard-drive – with a few rough notes on it).


In 1989, a bunch of LEADership gurus / boffins decided to set up a series of what they called the “Leadership Masterclass” – the first one was led by John Gardner and he outlined his views on what LEADership was all about…

  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Assertiveness
  • Capacity to motivate people
  • Courage and resolution
  • Decisiveness
  • Eagerness to accept responsibility
  • Intelligence and action-orientated judgment
  • Need for achievement
  • Physical vitality and stamina
  • Self-confidence
  • Skill in dealing with people
  • Task competence
  • Trustworthiness
  • Understanding of followers and their needs

Isa, Meryem and Yusef…no wonder so few educators have the kahunas to refer to themselves as a “LEADer” – the “Man of Steel” himself would struggle to fit into those tights and cape!

And, YES…I did have to place that text onto that image very strategically!


Fast forward 20 years (to 2009), the Masterclass boffins invited someone very different to speak to them. This speaker gave a much shorter definition of what matters in allthingsleadership:

  • Trust
  • Talent development
  • Openness and honesty
  • Learning from experience

That speaker was an EDUcatorSir Roy Anderson (ex-Rector of Imperial College, London)…

These were the two definitions I pulled off my harddrive…as part of this impromptu session.

I split the group in half and told each group to decide (in terms of the “definition” I had given them) whether they were LEADers – or not.

Do I need to tell you…really…what happened?


Many of us today still operate with “Superman model” of LEADership – and we forget that even little children can be “World Changers”.

The “Superman model” is also still very much based on “formal roles” – and this is one of the reasons we are often so disappointed with our “educational managers”. How does that old phrase go – “not all LEADers are managers, not all managers are LEADers”!



As Max Weber suggested, more of us need to start focussing on “acts of LEADership” (rather than “LEADers”). When we do this, we start to see that it is not only senior administrators that “do” LEADership

When we look at what LEADership is (through the eyes of an educator – like Sir Roy)…we begin to see that all TEACHers can (and should) be LEADers LEADers that are frequently only limited by what they believe about themselves…and what they do with those beliefs when they are with their own future “World Changers”.



So, here’s the deal – this is a set of thunks of what matters in Sir Roy’s definition of LEADership


If we look at this definition, we start to see a number of cornerstones



As another great man said (I have forgiven him for his unLEARNing rubbish):

Educators (along with nurses) are perhaps some of the most important “servant LEADers” we have on the planet – and we don’t have to “work at” as hard as those in other sectors. The whole purpose of education should be to help create an army of “World Changers” – as Greenleaf noted:

So, tell me again why we focus so much on “standarised tests”?



One of my favourite “World Changers” can be seen in the movie  Pay It Forward (yes, I do love the “boy genius” and old Kevin and the lovely Helen – and, remember that Kevin Spacy played a TEACHer in this movie).

If a “kid” can work out that he can touch 4,782,969 people in two weeks, and school managers can’t – we have got something seriously wrong in the “adult world”.

Caring for others is perhaps the best way to breathe life in to the role of the servant LEADer . This really comes out in the work of Mayeroff (1971) – who  defined care as “helping another grow and actualize himself…a process, a way of relating to someone” that involves development by

  • “being with” another
  • “being for” another
  • “being there” for another

All great TEACHers “get” this – so do many “World Changers”…



I think it was Albert Schweitzer that said, “The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings”.

Sometimes, especially in the world of business, we forget this:

Peter Koestenbaum hit a home run when he said true LEADership:

…is empathy, which means service. It’s an attitude of love and compassion, of caring, of including people, of valuing them, of hearing them, or suffering when they suffer, and of being proud when they succeed.

Education is about “moral purpose” – a notion best explained by Micheal Fullan:

Moral purpose of the highest order is having a system where “all students learn, the gap between high and low performance becomes greatly reduced, and what people learn enables them to be successful citizens and workers in a morally based knowledge society” (The Moral Imperative of School Leadership, 2003)

It’s often said that LEARNers pick up more from who their TEACHers “are” – than what they “TEACH”. Ethics matter!



 We all know that trends may come and fads will go but:

Covey talks about “true north” principles in his 7 Habits:

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpening the Saw

Then he gave us “Habit 8”:

  • Habit 8: Find Your Voice & Inspire Others to Find Theirs

I have not met many people who go wrong when they “live” these types of principles. And, that last one is how we co-create more “World Changers”!


LEARNing (the final, but most important, cornerstone)

Did you forget the name of the blog you are reading? Sir Roy didn’t forget it…the best LEADers don’t either.



A Picture Paints a Thousand Words…

In News & Updates (from the CBO) on 30/03/2012 at 10:34 pm

This has been an awesome month – OK, I know I am probably too long in the tooth to be using words like “awesome” but some little “tokens” just carry the right “meaning”!

Well, for starters, March saw my one year anniversary as a “blogger”. A few people noted that they were surprised by this – hey, I have always been a pretty natural “BS artist” –  it’s all about the medium, the medium, the medium! And, it helps if you you love (and I do) your “business”.

I’ve always said that I treat LEARNing as my hobby – and how many guys (or gals) get to do their hobby at “work”.

I am blessed! OK, that’s another “token” I hate hearing on American Idol – or my new fave singing show The Voice – but, again, it carries the right “meaning”!

Also, the blog…and I missed this as I was travelling this week…reached 150,000 visitors. This means that we are now getting around 30,000 “hits” a month…not too shabby for an educational blog that is not as “targetted” as many others are (people keep writing to me saying I cover too “much ground” and should “specialise” – Mmmmmm – sounds like they are pushing a 4+4+4 model on me)!

So, what to do for a weekend post?

Well, I thought it might be fun to look at the graphics / images that seem to be very popular (in terms of the number of “downloads” from allthingslearning). I discovered a few weeks back that a lot of our allthingslearning jpegs and pngs have become very popular with those “pinners” – you know, the guys currently hooked on Pinterest!

The number #1, #2 and #3 downloaded images are these:

…now, I feel kinda weird about this as I do not know where I found these images (and I have asked after them a couple of times on the blog itself) – and, I use them all the bloody time in some of my presentations.

If you know, tell me so I can give the necessary credit (that new Google tag “report this image” is worrying me)!

Then we have a few others:

This one is from Margaret Mead (forgot to add that when I did it).

A-round-a-bout September or October of 2011 (look at the stats again), my “visual literacy” suddenly peaked (no, I did not start using LSD – just my daughter’s recommended texts at univ) – and, these images started to shine in my stats:

Now, you see why I started to get worried about copyright (I did a few posts on this – and Wiley’s laywers backed off)! But then…

I also began to find that “quotes” worked really well – when attached to a nice “piccie”:

…even when the quote was a “mis-quote” or contained a pretty “dumb idea”!

Ne se, a few other favourite started to show my love of allthingsStarWars:

Now, I’m not sure if the guys who downloaded these images totally shared my love of allthingseducation – but, it takes all sorts and we have to remember that “different strokes” are a part of who we are.

Our blog readers did also seem to love the more educational stuff:

A few of the more recent “faves” are:

Probably a copyright issue here withthis one, too…but I just loved this image!

I also did a few that got me in even more “trouble” – but our co-bloggers just seemed to luv ’em:

Now, it occured to me – WTH am I doing this?

Well, it seems (as Google “image” searches are more popular today than “regular” searches) more and more of us might need to think about the images and graphics we use on our blogs!

I’m not sure if there is a “recipe” – but more and more people seem to prefer “the picture” over the “1K words”sad really!

Hey, that’s for you to pick up and run with!

The HUMAN Literacies of TEACHing…

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Training, Technology on 11/03/2012 at 12:42 pm

I wasn’t planning on doing any blogging this weekend – even thought about reading one of those “book-thingies” or three!

What changed?


Well, I was wandering around the web-cum-blogosphere (as any “digitally-literate grown-up” does when there is nothing better on the telly) and came across an advert that took me to a siteand, on this site I found this:


Read it carefully! Twice…


OK – it’s not as bad as Yul Bryner’s “My name is Yul Brynner – and I am DEAD  – his posthumous, anti-smoking advert!

But, it’s pretty scary…especially for those that do not own a “digital green-card“…

What struck me about this (and many other “Techie Support and LEARNing sites” like it) was how it plays on the “fears” of many grown-ups – our very “human” fears about being “inadequate” or being “left behind” (if I get one more spammy e-mail asking me if I am happy “with the size of my breasts”, I’ll just die – my breasts are just fine, thank you very mucho)!

I won’t be too mean – as Cyberwise has some great tutorials for teachers and parents wanting to LEARN more about media literacy – or even Twitter, Prezi or Glogster.

Just remember what Uncle Doug and Auntie Nancy told us earlier!


More importantly, however, a couple of people got in touch and asked after some more information on the “human literacies” that I mentioned in my last post on 21C Teacher Skills and Literacies .

There is probably a really bad global shortage of good weekend television these days!

Those of you that follow the blog will have seen a couple of the (in)famous jpegs and pngs I like to create in my “spare time” – images like this one:



Many Techies “hate” them – many “non-techies” love them…and both get a bit confused when I do a mini-series of three on allthingstechnology.

For me, this is the real “digital divide” in education – the divide between the “doers” and “non-doers” with allthingstechnology.

However, if you are anything like me – regardless of how digitally literate (and fluent) you are – you’ve probably asked yourself one of these questions:

  • What makes a really great teacher? How can I get there?
  • What can I LEARN from all those great teachers we hear about? How can I get as good as they are?
  • How can I be the best teacher I can be? Will technology help me?


You might have seen one of the “answers” I have come up with:


…and you can take that one to the bank (or pin-board)!


In matters of technology, I always ask one of the following questions:

I’ll leave it to you to “guess” which one I prefer


I mention this as we’ve been “talking” (well, I have – but my trusty PLN has also been coming up with some great “co-THINKing”) about how the “21C Movement” is not really a “techie” movement at all – as I have noted, it is… 


I’m going to push that little envelope a little bit further today and say it is also…

  • …a HUMAN LITERACY (and FLUENCY) Movement


And, that’s because (unless you work on one of these projects that are teaching orang-utans to use iPads) our “business” in education is LEARNingnot TECHNOlogy.



As I write this, I am listening to “Adajio for strings” (by Samuel Barber) and getting ready to listen to the “Theme from Schindler’s List” (by John Williams) or even Mahler’s “Symphony No.5 Adagietto” (let’s see what my iTunes playlists can come up with).

This music is so…HUMAN – and, as far as I know, no bit of technological wizardry has been able to co-create one of these! Of course, composers use a great deal of hi-tech these days. Sam never had the chance – John does! But the music just wouldn’t be the same without the “heart” of either of them

TEACHing is the same! 

We’re told again and again that 21C Skills are not “new”:

And, if we were really honest…there isn’t a lot that is “new” about great teaching.


…but before we get to “DIGITAL Literacies”, and “EDUCATIONAL Literacies” that we need to get “right” as educators,

…we have the“HUMAN Literacies” that great teaching is built on!


Why do I say these are quintessentially “human”?

I guess I need to get a wee bit personal for a minute. The human literacies (or the lack of them) are what stop me bonding in the same way that I did / do with my daughterÇ–A-Ğ-L-A hanım – with Dexter (my “son”):

I love him to bits, I do – but he lacks the “literacies” to really make it worth me bringing my “work” all the way “home” (now my big, little girl is in London – “bad” London). I know we are not supposed to “compare” our kids (even though “Dex” is a fair bit cheaper than his “abla” – “bad” London) – but, he does not do well in the LEARNacy stakes. And, although he has shown promise in the domain of EMOTIONAL Literacy – not too strong in the old CRITICAL Literacy stakes is young Dexter!


Teachers are not as lucky as Dexter – the human literacies are the very foundation of our “business”. We can’t afford to skip these areas in our practice – which makes me wonder why so many educator preparation and education programmes do not even mention them!

Teachers have to walk-the-talk of the human condition itself – and are (sadly) frequently rewarded with the type of “pocket money” that even Dexter would turn his nose up at!

 We do it anyways!


Great TEACHers are…

  • great LEARNers – and can LEARN even when others might choose to “quit” (in addition to viewing the passing on of this ability to others as their core purpose)
  • great QUESTIONers – and engage critically with their “business” (as well as helping others do the same)
  • great CONNECTors – and are “in tune” with their “self”, their “others” and their “context” (not only able to connect the dots, but also create “new dots”)


The first of our human literacies – LEARNacy – is what fuels these “being”abilities.

I wish I had come up with the term LEARNacy – this is why I write a blog and Guy Claxton runs a “LEARNing Empire”. Guy’s concept is, for me, at the heart of what TEACHing is all about – and it does not just take his 4R’s. LEARNacy is concept we have to “live” – and role-model. After all, it is the very reason we have teachers, isn’t it?


We talk a great deal about “critical thinking” in education (it is at the centre of almost all disciplines in our institutions and also hard-wired into most models of 21C education) – but teachers have to be “critical thinking doers”.

Critical literacy (in non-literary usage) connects more dots than we can shake a stick at – from analysis to adaptation, from applying creativity to solve very real problems to transforming ourselves, from going it alone to working with others. It’s about using the right questions to get the right forms of productivity – and doing the “right thing”.


Questioning lies at the heart of critical literacy – and questioning what we do, how we do it and what others tell us what we should be doing is what great teachers do. The same is true for our learners – if we want them to become “critical thinkers” (better still – “critical thinking doers”) they must also be LEARNed to become “critical consumers” of what we “do”.

The challenge is, of course, that LEARNing and LEARNacy are not, like tomatoes (thanks Krissy) or coal, something that can be “delivered” – neither is critical literacy!

Tell me again why we pay teachers so little!


However, both LEARNacy and Critical Literacy need to be lived at the level of feelings and emotions – teaching is, after all, the personification of “emotional work”. Teachers have to be amazingly “savvy” in terms of:

  • What they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?
  • What they do with what they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?
  • How they improve and grow with what they do with what they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?

This is why social awareness and empathy play such a critical role in the way we manage our relationships in education – and why we love our “sons”!


OMG – just had the shock of me life…Bach just jumped in with his “Toccata in D Minor”! 

Bloody iTunes!


The human literacies are very different to the “technological or digital literacies” (and fluencies) we talk about so much today – and it is fair to ask:

Can technology help us do “more” with these most human of literacies?


But, that’s for another daywhen there’s nowt on the telly!


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?


Bedtime Reading for Trainers-In-Training (Omnibus Edition)

In Teacher Training on 01/03/2012 at 5:54 pm

All that blogging about observations this week, made me realise that I hadn’t done an “update” on teacher educator resources for some time.

This is a list of allthingslearning “teacher training” posts (or “bits and bobs” that are most relevant to trainers) from the last 12 months – developed mostly for “trainers-in-training” but even more experienced teacher educators might find something of use.

I’ve broken them down into FOUR categories – and realised we could use a few more posts in a couple of categories. Mmmm – my blogging “to-do-list” groweth longer!

Enjoy! Feel free to add any other recommendations (from other sources or blogs) in the comments section.

From Teaching to Training


Teacher Education for the 21st Century


Classroom Observation


Workshops, Presentations & Conferences


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!

The “New Orthodoxy” of ELT

In ELT and ELL on 19/02/2011 at 9:07 am

Like many language teaching professionals I am always intrigued by new trends in language and language learning.

Trends have a way of clarifying “where we are” and “where we are going” – and help us spot the “driving forces” that will shape how we “do business” in the future.

However, in looking at trends or patterns it is important to remember that we cannot simply jump on the “flavour-of-the-month” band-wagon. As educators, we need to reflect critically on how underlying trends and changes will develop over time and impact the types of “living educational philosophies” and “lived missions” we use to design learning opportunities for our students and the planned experiences we take into our classrooms.

One interesting set of trends I saw recently were presented in a “think piece” prepared to help educational leaders and teachers better understand current trends in language education. In the monograph, Global Trends in Language Learning in the 21st Century, Eaton presents an innovative list of “what’s in” and “what’s out” for the language classroom:

What’s OUT

  • Vague, hollow promises that can’t be proven.
  • Saying that learning languages is easy.
  • Authoritative teacher attitudes.
  • Complaining about cutbacks and lack of funding.
  • Language labs.

What’s IN

  • Clear, provable demonstrations of learning.
  • Frameworks, benchmarks and other asset-based approaches to assessment.
  • Individualized, customizable, learner-centred approaches.
  • Proving the value of language learning through stories and speech.
  • Using technology for language learning.
  • Linking language learning to leadership skills.
  • Showing funders the impact their investment has on our students, our communities and our world.

At first sight, her list of “ins” and “outs” does not seem to offer many earth-shattering insights.

It is certainly true that behind Eaton’s list is a more powerful message on the purpose of language learning: the focus in language education in the twenty-first century is no longer on grammar, memorization and learning from rote, but rather using language and cultural knowledge as a means to communicate and connect to others around the globe. However, this should not be news to many of us – as is her suggestion that more old fashioned “authoritarian models are giving way to gentler, more collaborative models” and the fact that “geographical and physical boundaries are being transcended by technology”.

What is different, however, is her emphasis on the fact that that we need to reconceptualise how we “do business” in ELT around the notion of “walking our talk” and knowing exactly “what that talk is all about”.

One of the most comprehensive discussions of trends in language education is presented by David Graddol, in his excellent monograph “English Next”. In this, he builds on his innovative analysis given in The Future of English (1997) – and also offers a great deal of insight into helping us understand where the business of ELT is going.

Graddol’s main purpose is to explore a wide range of trends from demography, economy, technology, society, education and languages. Ultimately, he arrives at the same conclusion as David Crystal and recognises that English has become “the” de facto global language. In much the same way that Crystal notes, he also claims that the current, apparently unassailable, position of English as the world’s lingua franca, is the result of the unprecedented social, technological and economic global changes we face today.

Some of the economic trends to which he refers have already become a reality. This month saw Japan’s 42-year ranking as the world’s second-largest economy come to an end – as she was finally eclipsed by China.

Graddol draws on some mind-boggling statistics, generated by a computer model developed by The English Company (UK) Ltd to forecast potential demand for English in the education systems around the globe.

  • There are now over 5 billion people globally who do not speak English as either their first or second language.
  • Around 1.9 billion of these are between the ages of 6–24 (the key age group for education and training).
  • The total number of non-English speakers is expected to rise slowly and peak in 2030 at just over 2 billion.

In 2000, the British Council estimated that there were around 750 million and 1 billion people that were learning English. If Graddol and The English Company are correct, almost a third of the world’s population is trying to learn English – as I write this.

This is great news for ELT professionals – we all get to keep our jobs for the next 20 years. Well, not such great news for native speakers. This is because, as Crystal notes, the spread of English is not as stable and permanent as it once was. Graddol suggests that the rise of “Global Englishes” and Teaching and learning English as a lingua franca (ELF) is changing the traditional face of ELT and EFL – but that’s for another conversation!

It is this last point that distinguishes Graddol’s work from that of Crystal.

Graddol also focuses his attention on the impact these changes and the rise of “linguistic post-modernity” are having on the world of ELT and uses this to introduce what he describes as the “new orthodoxy” that is shaping the world of ELL.

For Graddol, this new orthodoxy is built on four pillars:

(1) Start teaching English at primary school – preferably Grade 1 but at least by Grade 3.

(2) Begin teaching at least part of the curriculum through English at secondary school. Possibly provide specialist support by English teachers.

(3) Require students to be proficient in English at entry; reduce support for English teaching within university to specialised subject knowledge.

(4) Teach more courses at university through English, or at least expect students to be able to access study materials – such as textbooks – in English.

In his earlier monograph Graddol suggested that “the future was bilingual”, however, in his sequel he talks more of how English has become a “basic skill” (as is the case with literacy, numeracy, technology and learning how to learn) in today’s globalised world – and about how this is having a profound impact on who is learning English.

So, what does this new orthodoxy mean for YOU?

The Language Revolution (Themes for the 21st Century) by David Crystal

The English Language: A Guided Tour of the Language by David Crystal

Redesigning English by Sharon Goodman, David Graddol, and Theresa Lillis