Socialising Innovation

through the clouds

This is not the wisdom of the crowd, but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. It’s not that the network itself is smart; it’s that the individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network.
― Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

There are always questions around the purpose and function of our work. Are we innovating enough? Too much? How do we know when an idea is good? How long should we invest in it?

Some are organisational questions; what’s the best way to foster an innovation culture and spread the word of our work? Are we even in the business of innovation? Who and what drives us?

Essentially, we know good business, and good teaching practice is built on good ideas, and sharing them.

In reading Atul Gawande’s New York Times provocation, Slow Ideas, on how we spread good ideas, I was also drawn to the work of Nilofer Merchant, a social era commentator and company director, Steven Johnson, author of ‘how good ideas spread’ and Futerra, a marketing firm working with the UNEP on reshaping communication of the sustainability message. There are some key learning for the Education space, primarily in how and why our good ideas and work can gain the traction we (and others) think it deserves.

There are a few considerations around judgement of ideas: Are ideas adopted quickly necessarily good? Often this is deemed the case. Inversely, are ideas that take time, poor ideas? Often not. It is in how they gain traction that requires a rethink. A classic example is The Internet. Tim Berners Lee took 10 years and countless hours in sharing of his spark of an idea for it to truly get the public traction of the familiar scope of a World Wide Web we know today.

In an age of rapid research, communication and action, there is much complexity. This can lead to error. Essentially individuals working within organisations, teams and indeed society need to realise “We can’t know it all or do it all ourselves”. We need to view this statement with a growth mindset an opportunity to connect with others and hone expertise, not a shame and deficit mindset. Once we get to this point, we begin to operate as pitcrews, rather than cowboys. Shifting from corralling cowboys to producing pit crews—is the great task we have before us.

Teachers, like doctors famously prize their autonomy as among their highest professional values. But improved outcomes also depend on teamwork.

A strong and productive ‘system’ or organisation is a collective of diverse people who authentically work together to direct their specialised capabilities toward common goals. They are coordinated by design. They are pit crews. To function this way, however, you must cultivate certain skills, and acknowledge the strengths of individuals in the team.

There is a critical need to recognise when we’ve succeeded and when we’ve failed for the end user. People in effective systems become interested in data sets. They put effort and resources into collecting them, refining them, understanding what they say about their performance.

It’s important though to recognise that failure is not a bad thing, not because mistakes are good, but because they are critical steps that one must go through in order to create something valuable. Avoiding failure at all cost is a costly stance. Failing fast and moving on to the next thing is a much better philosophy.

Acclaimed instructional coach, Jim Knight talks about the importance of a shared discourse or common language across our education landscape. When we have a shared narrative, we have a richer ability to collaborate and make meaning of the business of schools and education; which is essentially the business of a community. This collaboration can manifest practically, for example by collecting and analysing evidence of student learning, or learning artefacts, and designing together both proactive and reactive measures that foster the kind of accountability that has real impact. We can utilise the capacity of a range of stakeholders to make sense of learning analytics and big data that is commonly underutilised in the school setting. Forming and fostering networks of interest, deepening to communities of engagement support educators and schools to focus on their core business.
Multiple studies and conversations reveal that there are three things we must accomplish if we are to enrich and deepen learning:
1. increase the quality and depth of curricular content,
2. improve teacher knowledge and ability to apply what they know, and
3. increase students’ active engagement
There continues to be so much to learn from small, innovative teams in different professional fields, from medicine to music to software development, and it is already clear that sharing knowledge must be made easier in education too. Gawande shares the concepts of Jim Knight, stressing the importance of opening professional dialogue and publicising practice for critical feedback, leading to improved outcomes and experiences for students. There are clear opportunities and emerging projects to allow for the community to truly engage in the business of education, inviting networks working on the periphery of schools to support the emerging work of teachers, school leaders and students in deepening student engagement and learning experiences. In a networked education model, the premise is clearly that “everyone’s a learner, everyone’s a teacher.” As the interest and the involvement of the wider community in schools deepens, it is clear that students will benefit the most from the increased professional collaboration and networking (social capital) and knowledge and expertise of individuals (human capital) that is built as a result.

When inventive people aren’t aware of what others are working on, the pace of innovation slows. If we had better visibility into one another’s work, one suspects, we could collaborate more effectively or work more quickly or with greater insight. – Clive Thompson

In early 2010, Nike announced a new Web-based marketplace it called the GreenXchange, where it publicly released more than 400 of its patents that involve environmentally friendly materials or technologies. The marketplace was a kind of hybrid of commercial self-interest and civic good. By making its good ideas public, Nike made it possible for outside firms to improve on those innovations, creating new value that Nike itself might ultimately be able to put to use in its own products.

Great lessons and practices in a single classroom impact the students while they are in that classroom. Systematic succession planning for outstanding teaching practice requires a network of professional learners (on different peripheries externally, and also within the education space) who share their practices with one another so that innovation, best practice and concepts of next practice can be shared widely.

Once thinking is public, connections take over. Failed networks kill ideas, but successful ones trigger them. It’s by learning from other people’s ideas, or previous ideas of our own, that we come up with new ways of seeing the world. It’s a constant connection of innovation and success. Documenting our thought process will inform the development of our ideas. Sharing this documentation could grow the concept.

Openness is powerful, even catalytic. On a personal level, it not only allows us to share, but to co-create with speed. On an organisational level, it allows for more than collaboration, it enables communities. Nilofer Merchant

Essentially, the three key authors boil it down to this;
• People talking to people is still how the world’s standards change. Slow, sustained, supportive.
• Stakeholder engagement is conversational; trust and visibility are essential elements.
• To create new norms, you have to understand people’s existing norms and barriers to change. You have to understand what’s getting in their way.
• Conversations, not evaluations. Discoveries (“I really can do this and it really works”), not prescriptions (“Do this or else”).
• Model what you value

Understanding what motivates others is the first step in knowing how to talk to them. Psychology teaches us some valuable lessons here:
People are motivated:
• To know and understand what is going on: they hate being disorientated or confused.
• To learn, discover and explore: they prefer acquiring information at their own pace and answering their own questions.
• To participate and play a role in what is going on around them: they hate feeling incompetent or helpless.

So how can good teaching ideas spread for the benefit of all learners, everywhere? Technology and incentive programs are not enough. “Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread an innovation,” wrote Everett Rogers, the great scholar of how new ideas are communicated and spread. Mass and Social media can introduce a new idea to people. But, Rogers showed, people follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up. Every change requires effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.

If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.
Steven Johnson

Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn


I have been thinking deeply about the core business. I’ve had good lessons, great lessons and some fairly unsuccessful ones too. A highlight has been Tuesday, as I work with Master of Teaching students at University of Sydney. We unpacked the concept of the instructional core, in preparation for classroom observation.

The instructional core can be interpreted as overly simplistic; Teaching of content clearly leads to learning. Or we can look at this framework as the core business, where good teachers affect learning by building relationships with their learners and a deep passion for the content. It is the teacher who makes the connections sparkle!

There is much debate over content v concepts. Howard Gardner once said that subject disciplines are some of the greatest and most significant social constructs of humankind. While I agree that PBL/ Inquiry is key to ‘education’, the joy in learning the specifics of our world and the ideas of fellow people can be equally magical; and certainly an understanding of such siloed concepts is taken higher when students are guided in inquiry and cross curricular discovery. An MTeach student was talking about her subject; Maths. She painted a beautiful picture of the instructional core; teacher, student, content.

I see myself as the conductor of a symphony when I am engaged in teaching Maths. There are kids at different levels of engagement and understanding, different parts to be learnt; algebra, trigonometry, geometry. They all come together in a crescendo of understanding, of skills mastery. When it all comes together, there is that moment when the poetry of how we can make more sense of the world and the song of patterns becomes harmonic.

Whoa. I had a sudden thirst to engage with a calculator.

It reminded me of a quote from Carmine Gallo, in The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs “would Steve Jobs’ ideas have been translated into world changing innovations had it not been for his ability to persuasively communicate?”

Teaching is a specific skill. The instructional core values the role of the teacher in the ever changing educational space. There is a need to focus on good teaching, and in this comes reflection. In Australia, AITSL is working to make teachings standards actually living documents and focus points for lifting the esteem and productivity of the profession. The most important work of AITSL is their advocacy for building learning communities; teachers as learners.

When we put learning at the central point of the instructional core, and conscious observation of ‘learning’ as a common process, we build consistent dialogue and value into what we do. And what we do transcends the success of our curriculum, learning spaces (of which, I think is perhaps another part of incorporate into the IC), schools, systems; Teaching and Learning is critical at a range of scales.

It has come down to two important questions;

  • What is Learning?
  • How do we know it’s happening?

I value your thoughts.


The “F” word…in public

Source: via Summer on Pinterest



I secretly wanted to call this post “Why I make my Facebook Public”, but ‘Why and How’ posts aren’t my vibe.

I recently revisited my last post “The Year that Was” where I talked openly about how Facebook has evolved into a rich tapestry of the story of Summer. Photos of wonderful times, stories of great events, check-ins to interesting places, links to things I find interesting. It’s the story of me.

I talk with lots of teachers and students about social media, and the “F” word always comes up, as if it is somehow dirty or criminal. I don’t think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc are problematic, it’s in the use. We know this…this is not a new statement.

I love Facebook. There. I said it. I connect with friends I see very little of across the world, it has saved me from the awkwardness that is a school reunion, helped me plan social events, keep up with friends and their babies…all good things. But recently, a discussion with a teacher around how she ‘locks down’ her profile got me thinking about my Social Media portfolio, and use of all spaces online. There’s no doubt I leverage different spaces in different ways; we all should, and we connect with different people in these spaces. I’ve seen over the past 18 months or so, the lines of my Twitter and Facebook blurring as I share more educational stuff on Facebook, and more social things on Twitter; the same people are generally in both spaces in a lot of situations. I connect with people on Pinterest, as I build a picture of my aesthetic. Over on Instagram, I’m finding kids I teach following me, another extension of my story. I think photography is a great way to build empathy and a good way to take a little longer to appreciate a moment. A photo tells a story, and it another way we can connect with others. I’ve been involved in some productive ‘coaching’ of kids in this space regarding their online image. While chatting about Instagram, have a look at how this class uses this social media space to make their learning public.

Kids do understand why, but I think they often don’t understand how. Isn’t it up to us as teachers to show them the way? We can also write amazing resumes for ourselves, but I’ve come to learn that being authentic in life, and online is far more organic and simple. If it’s not the right thing to do, don’t do it. If you don’t want people to know about something, don’t post it online. Here’s my rule; if I put it online, I want you to know about it.

A young man recently said to me “You know your Facebook is open? You know I can see all of your Tweets? You know I found you on Instagram? I can see your resume on LinkedIn

“So how do you feel about that?”

“You’re the same online as you are in real life”

He then went on to tell me how much more connected and respectful he felt, knowing more about me. He actually shared with me how much he enjoyed seeing me reflecting on and discussing “all of that nerd teacher stuff”.  A pretty proud and humbling moment actually.

It’s about who I am, and showing kids what it means to have a digital footprint. There are things online I can’t have control over and mistakes will be made…such as life itself. But I have firmly decided to show what we expect kids to know, and try to model it well.

I welcome your thoughts.


The year that was.

Source: via Summer on Pinterest


Things fall apart so that other things can fall together.

In one of my favourite posts of 2012, my dear buddy George Couros wrote such words of reflection that really connected with me “I have also learned about the importance of those closest to me and how I need to appreciate them more”. I remember reading this post and coming to tears. A few times.

You see, in a similar vein, I want to take some time to open up and reflect upon the year that was. The vibe of my blog is in the process of a transformation; as am I. I’m on the cusp of some great things, ideas of which I am profoundly proud of, experiences of which scare me, but essentially are rooted in the currents of my bliss. I will unpack more of this as the new year ticks over.

But as for closing off 2012, here goes…

If anyone took me aside and told in a fairly black/white line, what would unfold this year, as the clock turned midnight 2011…it is safe to say I would have headed straight to bed with the cookie dough ice-cream and sought haven in the safety of my doona for twelve months.

People talked of 2012….of the year the world was going to end. In so many ways it did.  But in so many ways, this was a year of newness and growth. Out of  fear and failure, of loss and paralysing hurt, success came packaged in lessons of how I, alone, dealt with each and every situation. Gifts were bestowed in the rekindling of brilliant friendships, of time with my wonderful family and in the joy of shared experiences. It became so clear, not only does Life Go On, but life is indeed what you make it.

I lost my old life this year. There is intense grief in that. And choice. I made a choice for this not to make be bitter, but to make me better. To not let heartbreak and hardship harden me, but to stay soft and always believe that this world is a very extraordinary place. I became so much for cognisant of the blessing that abound me. And a heck load more impressed with the person I am and the things I am capable of.

So without over simplifying this, I offer these ‘lessons’, I’ve reflected deeply, and I know more will come to me.

* People want to help you. They want to share their story with you. Let them. At the end of the day, it’s all we’ve got; our story.

* Be kind, everyone is fighting a tough battle

* You’ll be ok. But you have to want to be.

* Be open and curious. Be ready for cool things to happen.

* You know what’s going on. Trust your instinct. Everything you need is already right there within you.

* Never pass up time with friends

* You have to show and guide people in how you need to be treated or reacted to. When you have experienced something that others only can imagine, they often don’t know how to approach you. Show them. I learned a lot about my own leadership capabilities here.

* Take a chance. If you don’t like your situation, change it. You aren’t a tree.


I’ve cemented friendships with good people who have been with me through thick and thin. Who pick me up when I’m down, or lie next to me when it’s just too much to stand. They have in the end, essentially danced with me in the rain. And for that, I cannot express how eternally grateful I am. We have perhaps lost sight of the utter brilliance this year has ended up being about, though. I saw this when a new friend recently told me that he was wowed by my Facebook. That it looks like I have had an amazing year, full of fantastic events and good people. That was profound for me to realise. So I looked back over the 12 months of Facebook, and it really is a legacy of people, events, thoughts and experiences that I have enjoyed…Facebook has been a brilliant reflection tool for me. Things fell apart, but I didn’t. Things changed, and so have I. I think it’s good to be changed by such life events; it’s important. In the process of loss, I found much more, and I am better for it.

So perhaps over and above the 13 years of school, 8 years of university and all the conferences in between, this year has been my year of learning. The year is sending as it should. My tribe of friends and family, my PLN, and me… I’m settled and have all I need.

Looking ahead to a brilliant year, knowing that we are strong, smart and brave.



This is a safety announcement…


If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.


I’ve been travelling quite a lot over the past year. There is no doubt it is the most amazing thing any human can do; travel, see other parts of the world, and meet new people. With the excitement comes the exhaustion. Not only have I travelled for work, I have also moved my life to, quite possibly literally the other side of the world…and then packed up and travelled back again. What an utterly extraordinary year.

My whole perspective on teaching, and of life, has been moved this year. What a gift. Cementing ties with brilliant minds from my local PLN, thinking deeply about what it is I value in education, and getting to know my own strengths (and weaknesses) much better.

Here’s my big take away; nobody will look after you if you don’t give yourself that respect.

As educators, and leaders, we always are on the lookout for others; the kids in our care, our valued PLN, our family. But at the end of the day, how can we look after others if we don’t first look after ourself?

I’m so proud to be part of this profession of people who give their whole guts and soul to others. Everyday, I am overwhelmed by the love and generosity of gifted professionals, and preservice teachers eager to do the very best they can for kids.

I have had the immense delight of hanging out with Dan Haesler, wellbeing guru in my current role at PLANE. Dan speaks of student wellbeing and the need for us to put the concept of ‘wellness’ at the forefront, if it is excellence in schools we are after. It’s quite simple when we get to the core of it. Maslow built this into the hierarchy of needs; we need to be well before be can be brilliant.

So why do we push through? Why do teachers wait for school holidays to visit the doctor? Why do we unrealistically put everyone and everything before our own health? I see too many teachers give up their own wellbeing, like a candle lit at both ends.

We need to stop the glorification of busy, and model what being well means for our young people. Perhaps it’s the time I have taken out this term to essentially stop and reflect, or maybe it’s listening to well over 20 aircraft safety briefings; all reminding me that in order to be of any use to others in a crisis, I need to make sure I have taken care of myself first.


Do it, Share it, Lead it



The growth of any craft depends on shared practice and honest dialogue among the people who do it. We grow by private trial and error, to be sure — but our willingness to try, and fail, as individuals is severely limited when we are not supported by a community that encourages such risks.

The Courage to Teach; Palmer, 1998, p. 144

Experience is a truly remarkable thing. It’s a gift we in essence give ourselves each day. It’s a hard teacher, and often plans lessons we don’t want to learn. But it makes us look at things differently with each turn. Experience makes us evaluate where we have been, and what we are headed into next. It makes us collaborate with others on the journey too.

In order to experience, you need to take chances and live. It’s risky, it’s terrifying, it’s pretty awesome. If we don’t experience we don’t grow. I’m reminded of the epic conversation I had with Steve Collis and Malyn Mawby last year; Teaching is Traumatic. And remember what Ben Jones added; Trauma is good for us, it helps us grow and change and get stronger.

I’m doing something pretty awesome at the moment. I returned from my time teaching and living in the USA, into working with the PLANE Project . The most terrifying part of this challenge is that it sits outside of the classroom. There are no kids around. I miss it hugely, the happy noise. But what is extraordinary is the mix of people involved in this project; from all sectors, Public, Catholic and Independent. From classroom teachers to IT professionals, teacher leaders to new scheme. It’s a brilliantly unique situation, and an outstanding concept.

Learning is not an ‘add on,’ to be done when we have some free time or at training sessions. Some of the most significant innovations have been in infrastructures and day-to-day practices, allowing teams and intact work groups to integrate working and learning.

— “The Academy As Learning Community: Contradiction in Terms or Realizable Future?” Senge, in Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Department Chairs, Lucas, A. F. & Associates, 2000, pp. 280-281

So it’s a different learning I’m immersed in. It’s education professionals building something for our colleagues and friends to connect and learn together, with the clear and ultimate goal of learning being a better and more meaningful experience for kids, everywhere.  The team is cognisant of what we know works best in this learning game; curiosity and fun. Frustrations arise when we try to make big visions into production realities. That’s a pretty neat place of dissonance. Take a look at PLANE. 

What I see as being of greatest significance for a project such as this is the potential for data gathering. We speak about NAPLAN and the role it can (or cannot) play in the ‘value add’ for students.  George Couros talked about Data and the role it has in improving learning.

My mind has been racing as it seems there are amazing things happening all over the world, and in our own community, that are pushing education forward.  I see more people taking the plunge,  getting elbow deep into their own learning.  I am inspired every single day, and I am seeing some amazing connections between the work that educators are doing and the learning that is happening in the classroom.

Here is the question that keeps popping into my head though:  Where is the data that supports this progression in our own practice resulting in success in our schools?  This can be about any initiatives in schools ranging from assessment, technology integration, critical thinking, and so on.  The problem is, with many things happening in education today, they are so new that the “data” is lacking.  Sometimes even if data is there, it might not necessarily prove anything.  For example, if we say the purpose of school is to prepare our students to be happy and contributing citizens in our society, how do high standardized tests prove this?  All it really proves is that students did well on the test.

The most outstanding aspect of PLANE for educators is the sharing and collaboration of resources, stories and thoughts. I see huge potential for a repository of evidence of teaching and learning happening in Australian Schools; not of scores of NAPLAN data sets, but of examples where human stories are the key element, and we can make that brilliant teacher; experience, the most outstanding tool to support good teaching and learning. We’ve already seen examples where new scheme teachers are in virtual worlds or forums within PLANE, mentoring principals on projects or ideas. As we know, experience isn’t an age thing, or is it positional. We know learning is relational; it’s a conversation.

We are shaping a network, whereby, given time, the bank of evidence can be evaluated and read deeply. Where we can provide deep support for all educators, translating into the best learning experiences of kids. An environment that has strength online and translates offline, because it is in the organic connections and ownership of the project that people connect and share. Working with all school and learning organisations, we will have a system of reflective practitioners, who take their own learning, and the learning of others personally. An empathetic and generous learning community, empowered by their learning. A situation where practise informs evidence, and becomes the grounding for new evidence, which will inform best practise. Steve Johnson aptly said that good ideas take time and take collaboration. There is much to be said about taking the time to share what you know; simple to you extraordinary to others.


We need to create programs that bring us together structurally in some cases, intellectually and emotionally in others….Learning communities are one way that we may build the commonalities and connections so essential to our education and our society.

Learning Communities: Creating Connections Among Students, Faculty, and Disciplines; Gabelnick, et al., 1990 p. 92

A Life More Ordinary

Source: via Elsielynn on Pinterest


I’m in pursuit of the ordinary. It may sound pesimisic, defeatist, bland. It’s not. Far from it actually. It’s a heartfelt, overly difficult thing to focus on for the rest of the year. It’s a challenge.

Talking through this idea with my friend and trusted colleague, Ben Jones, we came to the firm conclusion that going in search and perfecting the ordinary is something most of us have left behind in place of the hard fought battle to be exceptional. Make no mistake, doing amazing things is a noble cause; but if everyone did this, then really, would things be so amazing?

There’s no question; this has been a tough year. And there’s still a solid 4 months to go of 2012. I’ll take this opportunity to share with you; I’m back in Australia. Life happens and choices need to be made. Hard choices, but in the end the right ones. If nothing else, I can say that I have perfected the art of choice making this year, and while things have fallen apart, good things have come together. And good things have in turn fallen apart. Life has happened thick and fast in 2012. A friend said to me recently, that people are so interested in my life, because somehow in the pursuit of a simple, ordinary existence, I find myself in extraordinary situations. This is so true; and it got me pondering…

Make no mistake, this isn’t an invite to a pity party, nor is this post trying to ‘make sense’ of my life. Far from it. I’m quite cognisant of the process and open to the learning that continues to throw itself in my path each day. Everything happens for a reason. This post is simply a digestion of a multitude of conversations with Mr Jones that seem to make sense.

I’ve done some amazing things. I’m proud that I can firmly identify with what I do and the passion and drive I have in my field. But does this mean that every move need be outstanding, noteworthy, awe-inspiring? Isn’t there so much grace in perfecting and spending time in the less breathtaking? There’s no doubt here; the ordinary can be awesome, and perhaps that the real challenge here. I mean, to put in in Ben’s words ‘There’s pizza, and there’s pizza, right?”

SO what is ordinary, and how can you make it count? I can think of many examples in school and education, and in fact, it is in the perfection of the ordinary, that extraordinary and the most meaningful things can take place. I will leave you to list them off, but it’s safe to say that is is all about soaking in the simple interaction with people, listening to their story and sharing memories…this isn’t the stuff of legend, but it is the stuff of life.


I’m looking forward to finding my way back, again, to the core of that matters to me, and generally, getting back to me. I’ve got my health, good friends, and the love of my family, with a passion and fire that still burns strong in me and the pursuit of always wanting to know and learn more about education; particularly furthering the cause for middle schoolers and driving innovation in learning spaces. This makes me happy.

What is the ordinary we should focus on in schools and in education? Are we missing ‘it’ by always wanting to do the ‘undone’ thing?

I welcome your thoughts.

The Education Game

Why the act of play and the mindset of playfulness matters.



You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato

Here are some basic ideas of how we define Play. It’s a start, but far too shallow:

Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
Activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, esp. by children.
verb.  perform – act – toy
noun.  game – performance – drama – sport



There’s something truly interesting about watching play. There’s obviously something magical about being involved in play, but the observing of play has been the most enlightening part of my teaching journey of the past few weeks.

To play is to be creative and relational in so many ways. It’s loaded with problem solving and leadership opportunities.

Play is resourcefulness at work. I have seen kids analyse the tools in front of them, perhaps balloons, balls, rope or bubble, match the resource with the space and the number of participants and organise a game of sorts in under 5 minutes. Free from direction or instruction. I would argue the best work of my learners has come from play, and it has been up to me to take what I have seen and fuse it into inquiry time. It’s been breathtaking if I am honest.

I have watched as one girl shows off her gymnastics prowess in a cartwheel, to the awe of her peers. I have then watched as others attempt the skill, and then over the course of a week or so, not only are the cartwheeling skills of the group significantly more refined, so is the communication skills, and leadership capacity of the starter. In fact, these are skills I dare to say we may have trouble fostering in kids any other way.

I’ve long talked about play as a vital element in our  education mix, as have many of my colleagues. But to see play and playfulness as the central focus of student body has taken my argument to a whole new level.

It is a happy talent to know how to play. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

How can we better harness or express the importance of play?

Love. Not Loss.

                                                                              Source: via Summer on Pinterest



I remember when I first saw the IUCN’s rebranding of biodiversity; it shifted me as an educator.

Like most things that move us, they make intrinsic sense to us. We are, after all, emotional moreso than we are rational as human beings.  In a system where punishment is often used to both attempt to inspire and to chastise, we watch as an apathy builds in kids and adults alike. There is a fatigue that comes along with it; and as I have discussed at length previously, a compliance state.  Daniel Pink and Alfie Kohn have explored rewards and their impact on drive and learning at length.

Futerra have done a brilliant thing by putting this messageinto the world. They have  essentially re-branded the biodiversity message, leveraging what is the very essence of human nature and communication. We know that  Love messages trade on empathy. Their currency is awe, fascination and wonder , in the case of this campaign, for the natural world. Love messages are positive, built on adrenalin, not tears.  So how can we transfer this important and profoundly sensical concept into our classrooms? I would argue in more ways than we could ever even brainstorm.

The ‘Love’ message trumps the ‘Loss’ message for grabbing attention and inspiring action. This is key in how we communicate and surely apply curriculum and assessment. It appeals to the common sense in all of us. Inspiring people, particularly children, towards opportunity is a more powerful driver for action than scaring them away from the consequences.


Branding Biodiversity, Futerra’s latest report calls for ‘Love not Loss’

30 July 2010 | News story

This report argues that we need ‘Love not Loss!’ and that rather than sob stories of rainforest depletion, the most powerful agent for change will be people’s love of nature and the feeling of awe and amazement it brings.

The communications group, Futerra, is making extinction messages extinct with its latest piece of thought leadership on communicating biodiversity.

Branding Biodiversity is a practical guide to effectively communicating biodiversity to business, governments and the public in a way that will change behaviours and policies.

The report argues that we need ‘Love not Loss!’ and that rather than sob stories of rainforest depletion, the most powerful agent for change will be people’s love of nature and the feeling of awe and amazement it brings.

Biodiversity messages are divided into 4 categories; loss, love, need, and action. Branding Biodiversity provides communicators with an effective formula to use in their own messaging


This is a significant shift in building empathy over apathy; simply the core of what we try to do in schools, essentially.

You can’t get more powerful than awe, wonder and joy. I was recently at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and it quite literally blew my mind. I also had the profound delight of  sharing the experience with my friend’s daughter. I don’t know what I enjoyed more; soaking in my own first experience of seeing real dinosaur bones, or seeing her awe and wonder as she touched, explored and connected with that of which was in front of her. It was a sensory experience. I don’t know how many times I heard her say ‘wow, come over here, have a look at this!’. The real Aha moment came after she played in Mars Sand; “why can’t school be like this?”. Indeed.

exploration is tactile, it requires time and touch.

I watched with such intent when we came across the live archeology demonstration. I took some time to sit and talk with the man intricately wearing millions of years of rock and dirt away from bones of a critter long extinct. I was fascinated. It occurred to me that my daily life may not have been altered because of this discovery, or this small bone, or perhaps even by the long ago existence of the small dinosaur. But it was in the awe and wonder, that this man followed his life’s dream not only to find and explore such artifacts, but to volunteer his time to share this process and love with people; mainly children in his work with the museum.

A live archeology exhibition. This moment blew my mind.

I know others are exploring the very same notion, and I look forward to reading their thoughts on this. But I fear there is not enough awe and wonder. It’s where passion, curiosity and drive come from. It’s how we learn and grow and become self-assured. It’s how we communicate and connect with others. It’s flat out underestimated. How can we flip the deficit messages or undertones in education?

This skull was found in Denver city in 2003. It ignited my curiosity with time and place