A Learner's Journey

November 24, 2015
by mj0401mary

Innovation – a way forward

One of the big buzz words we currently hear often is ‘innovation’. I recently had the privilege of attending the 2015 ACEL conference and was able to listen to Professor Ian Williamson describe his interpretation of this word and some of the conditions that might be needed to enable it. He described innovation in two distinct but connected ways:

The creation of new ideas

The harnessing of these new ideas to create valuable processes, products and services

One of the interesting things Ian pointed out was that innovation is often a social and community pursuit – that it is in the combining of complementary skillsets, dispositions and interests that truly new ideas can be created. I know I have experienced this in my own work – the old adage of ‘two heads are better than one’ comes to mind and so often is true. 

The harnessing of these new ideas can be the most challenging part of innovation – seeing an idea through to the enactment phase. Sometimes the ‘ideas’ people are not the best people to harness and enact – there are different skills, knowledge and dispositions needed for this. This can be a risky enterprise, and having the support of leadership throughout this phase is critical. It is a time of trial, reflection, adjustment, change, openness, wondering and questioning. Innovation can require re- imagining and redesigning and takes time. 

So how do we support and enable innovation in our schools and classrooms? Collaboration is key and sharing a vision, a dream or a ‘reimagining’ of the way things could be would seem like an important first step. It may be a team, or just one teacher with the backing of a supportive principal but either way, creating new processes, products and services to improve student learning is always a worthy pursuit. 

I will leave you with this Ted talk I stumbled over today. Richard Culatta talks about some of his reimaginings of a system that enables personalised learning for all students. I love his description of a ‘Learning Positioning System’ that enables point of need for the student to be discerned and acted upon with ease. 

November 18, 2015
by mj0401mary

Feel the power!

Having really invested personally in the Google suite of applications such as Drive and  Google+, I can honestly say that it has transformed the way I work and collaborate. How you might ask? Here is a snapshot of some of the benefits I have found in terms of workflow …

  • I can access my work anytime, anyplace on any device. No more emailing files to myself, or carrying around USB’s with presentations on them. I can sign in (I usually go incognito when visiting schools) and access whatever I need wherever I am.
  • Collaboration opportunities abound and are easily managed – I can seek or receive feedback on documents via the comments function, I can work with my team on a Slide Presentation in real time, I can share files with colleagues quickly and efficiently, I can keep track of changes made to documents and even revert to previous versions if I wish to.
  • Whilst I still do love to file my work in folders within Drive, locating that elusive document is never a hassle – I simply search for one of the key words in it and  there is it.
  • Collecting and collating data, feedback or information through the use of Google Forms is simple, quick and efficient. I can view the data collected in a variety of ways and share it with my colleagues too. I have used this tool to gain feedback on our team’s work in schools which is a great source of learning and improvement for us as a team.
  • Google+ has been a great way to share content, interesting reads, agendas etc and I have learnt lots from engaging with a variety of communities all centered around education. It is simple and quick to engage with colleagues from all over Melbourne through responding to a post with a comment, question or simply a +1

18-11-2015 3-42-48 PM

How has Google Drive enhanced or impacted the way you work?

April 17, 2015
by mj0401mary

Word for the term … curiosity


My goal for term 2 in my work as a school advisor is to be curious about what I see, hear and read! To refrain from judgement and instead to ponder and wonder -

why might that be so? what thinking might sit behind this? how might we move forward from here? what might my role be here? why do I think that way? how might I find out more?

My experience as a teacher has taught me that people, communities and teams are complex and there are many reasons for why things are the way they are. There is much to be learnt by stepping off the judgement pedal and taking the time to pause and wonder, think and reflect instead. Will keep you posted on what this process reveals for me …


photo credit: What’s the point? via photopin (license)

November 19, 2014
by 34mk2012

Student voice: What is it? Why do we want it? How do we find it?

Student voice has become a buzzword in education at present and at the REL Networks, it has certainly been spoken about multiple times. What do we mean by student voice? Is it about engagement and making choices about learning? Is it about learning design that the student is a key player in? Is it about students working towards school improvement? Perhaps it is all of these things is some ways.

I stumbled across this video clip which apart from being humourous, also made me think about the relationships between teachers/leaders and students and how they have changed (or not!) over the years. 

This really gave me pause to think. My first reaction is ‘of course I have never operated like that within the school context’, but after further reflection, the stance of the school leader is one I may have taken on occasions. I feel I have grown much as a teacher since returning 5 years ago and made some inroads on enabling student voice within my classroom but I am not sure how effectively we did this as a school and leadership team. How is student voice authentically placed in school decision making? Where is student voice authentically placed within the school review process?

So for some research …

I came across two websites  I feel are well worth a look in expanding  understandings of student voice. The first is a document from the Department of Education. It is lengthy but worth a read to put the concept of student voice in context and the questions on page 19 provide a great source of reflection on student voice within the school and classroom. The other site  is titled ‘Soundout’, an American based site that has a number of interesting links about student voice. The one that I found challenging and valuable was the one title Cycle of Student Voice . This describes five aspects of supporting student voice in learning: listen, validate, authorise, reflect and act.

The challenge for our REL Network now is to ensure greater and more authentic student voice in our planning and learning design and to also seek student voice on how this impacts learning. Just a small challenge for next year!



November 19, 2014
by 34mk2012
1 Comment

A New Direction …

It has been 10 weeks now in my new role as School Advisor with the Catholic Education Office Melbourne. I am loving my new job and learning everyday from colleagues within the office and out in schools as I visit and work with them. Some of my learnings so far …

  • every school is different, and yet so similar! There are many of the same joys and struggles shared by the schools I have visited, each with its own particularity and flavour.
  • schools really are focused on meeting the needs of their students. This happens in many different ways and some schools seem to do this more easily than others, but everyone has that strong desire to be student-centred.
  • there are many, many wonderful teachers in schools doing amazing things with their students. Opportunities to both glimpse and share this is a source of insight and learning.
  • the Leadership Team play such a key role within a school and set the tone for collegiality and collaboration.

The overwhelming thing I feel is there is so much to learn! What a fantastic opportunity I have been given to work with a diversity of schools to improve student learning whilst at the same time, deepening my own understanding of leadership, student voice, the use of data to drive learning and learning design.

After this, I give up.  Probably.
Photo Credit: Curtis Alan Jackson via Compfight

July 4, 2014
by 34mk2012

What my students think…

Recently, whilst exploring the flexibility and usefulness of Google Forms, I used one to seek feedback on my teaching and our classroom from my students. What a great, easy way of getting feedback that was easy for the students and me! What did I learn from this …

What works well:

My students like the use of Whole Brain Teaching to engage them in their learning, especially the ‘teach’ instruction, which apparently allows them the opportunity to ensure they know what we are focusing on, explaining this to others to confirm they are on the right track.

My students enjoy the enthusiasm I bring to my role in the classroom, from my gestures to my voice! Good to know that my antics are valued!

My students perceive that I love teaching. This feels like such high praise and I am delighted that the love I have for my job is evident in the way that I engage in my classroom. They also commented that I care about their learning – this was wonderful to read because it is SO true!

My students experience learning as dynamic and fun. ‘Fun’ came up repeatedly and I am pleased that the effort and creativity I put into my teaching helps my students to enjoy their learning.

Even better if:

I had time to spend one on one with each student every day. This would be fantastic and is a mighty challenge. I hope that I do engage with each student individually each day although what I think they are after is something more lengthy. This is valuable feedback and something I can try and be more aware of.

Several students commented on wanting more group work. I find this a little surprising as we do work in teams a lot but we could certainly do it even more. There was an even split amongst the students of wanting to choose their own groups and  having groups chosen for them which was interesting.

My favourite; “It would be even better if Mary went to less meetings, but I don’t suppose there is much you can do about that.” Out of the mouths of babes … 

The best thing about being in 5/6 MK:

Overwhelmingly, there were two key themes here. The students are really happy with their teachers and I believe Krystyna and I are a very balanced and effective team. The students also acknowledged the respect, trust and care that exists within our classroom. Many students commented on feeling accepted in the room and always being able to get help when needed. They commented on the non-judgmental tone of the classroom and on how well everyone got along. As a teacher, reading this, my heart swelled! It is this exact atmosphere that allows students to take risks with their learning and feel supported as they do.

This exercise in seeking feedback has been immensely valuable to me as a teacher. Certainly it has been affirming of the way in which I try to operate as a co-learner within our classroom and use energy and creativity to engage the students. But it has also challenged me to try and squeeze out some extra moments of one on one time for every student, not just the ones who so overtly need it. Not to mention the meetings …

What kind of feedback have you sought from your students?


April 16, 2014
by 34mk2012

A Process for Change

One of the challenges in the subject Leading Educational Change is to come up with our own framework for the change process. We have read, reflected on and responded to many models of change presented to us and in the light of this, have been asked to come up with our own. So here is my attempt. I have tried to capture a couple of key things in this graphic (happy to have your feedback on whether I have been successful!); the importance of a shared vision for the change and the non-linear nature of change that requires lots of revisiting, reviewing, reflecting and adjusting.

The Change Process


I used www.gliffy.com to create this visual and found it very user friendly and easy to navigate.

Does this visual enhance your understanding of the change process? Would you change or refine it in any way?