Happy Steve

Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

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/GAT Project/ Google 20% Rule In School

/GAT Project/ Concluding Post 2011: "Boiling Pot" Edition

First-time readers: ‘GAT Project’ is our attempt at applying the Google 20% rule to school – no program, assessments, no teacher talk, no predefined curriculum, every student a different direction. For 6 months I’ve been working with Talar Khatchoyan to run a pilot project and see if we can grow it. See previous posts here to get up to speed.


The Granny Cloud Worked a Treat (although it was sans grannies)

As we hoped, industry experts emerged from our wider school community and gave of themselves, not only visiting the school to tutor the students, but also staying in email and phone contact with the students:


Lee Romer from Lee Media Design helping Sarita choose a color scheme for her anti-slavery campaign website.


Ex-cricketer and published author Neil Marks talks Peter through the writing and publishing process.


Steve Mansfield, with a degree in photography, explores the implications of eye biology for photo editing and filtering with Hugh and Daniel.

The Students Created Wonderful New Things and Learned a Stack

They did really well, especially considering they only really had about 20 hours class time in our small-scale pilot.

Hugh's Photographs

Daniel's Photographs

Sarita's Anti-Slavery Website

Peter's WW2 Pacific Articles: article 1, article 2, article 3, Doolittle's Raids

Absent Katrina's or Dominic's novels, Nick's Tropfest entry can't be released until after Tropfest, & Jarrod and Jayme's film coming soon.

Tom's robot is an absolute marvel, because he decided to build it out of recycled parts and scrap metal:

Don't be distracted by the yellow robot also in the video. His project is completely separate from that kit robot.

Tom explains how he found and chose the parts for his robot here:



Another two students, Morgan and Cody, had set their hearts on building "a robot that can find red objects". Cody's expertise was coding in Python, Morgan would build the robot itself. 

This is their end product. I had a red shirt on and they got it to chase me around the room!


Novel-writing, WW2 articles, photography, robots, anti-slavery campaign. The only thing that's missing is an expert teacher orchestrating. 


The /GAT Project/ in 2012

Talar has now written a kind of ‘GAT Syllabus’ complete with OUTCOMES (that’ll bring us some respectability!) reminiscent of Dan Buckley’s PbyP pathways (see p36 here) that somehow cover all student directions ('student pursues creativity' sort of thing). In 2012 we're forging ahead and increasing the time from 3 * 75 minutes to 5 * 75 minutes a fortnight (about 13% of weekly lesson time). We have about 16 students and I'll keep blogging.


Boiling Pots and Fires in Bellies

I once said something, then forgot I said it, and then Andrew Jeppeson reminded me, and I thought ‘gosh that’s so true’. So I’ll say it again now so I don’t forget it:

“Student engagement covers over a multitude of sins.”

This principle applies in any situation and in a much broader form. Let me rephrase it more simply:

“Life is desire.”

I mean “Life is desire, not obligation”.

You’ll need to define and redefine ‘desire’ in order to make this statement viable. It’s not too hard to subsume obligation into desire as a subset, i.e. I desire to do what I believe I ought to do (obviously true, since who can enjoy a cup of tea while there is washing waiting to hang out?)

The schooling machine tells students they ought to do well by the school’s own terms. Kindergarten kids wish to please, but it’s the ones who succeed early who embrace the ought with all their might. The ones who fail slowly give up, or find other ways (class clown/rebel leader/bully/social butterfly) or more likely in a tapestry of all of the above in rhythms and seasons too fluid to define.


Traumatic Schooling

How many times have I met someone new, and when they hear I’m a teacher, all their school-trauma plops out of them at me, still un-processed, un-healed; still childlike, as parts of their psyche still throb with the hurt of 13 years in a system that disapproved. If they didn’t desire they wouldn’t hurt.

See how obligation is a subset of desire?


Life is Desire

Life is desire.

Obligation is a socially constructed desire. It happens all the time, from momentary table conversations (‘pass the salt’) to nation-cultures (‘We need you!’). Our consciences are like a bubbling pot of oughts.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. 

If we look underneath underneath the bubbling pot there’s a fire.

The fire is desire. It precedes obligation, even though it may channel its energy through it.

It pulls us forward. 

It shifts and it flickers. It rages and dies, and rages again.

Rages, rages, against the machine,

or for the machine. 

Or against the dying of the light.

Or bizarrely, for the dying of the light, as if thirsty for death, as if it turned in on itself. 

Who is running your life? Whose terms? Whose agenda? Who do wish to please?

 “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords” – Kent Brockman 

Have you met that guy who knows who he is and what he stands for? Have you ever tried to stop her? Did you have any luck?

And I’ll stop right there, mid-thought, baffled as usual. 

One thing clear:

In the /GAT Project/ it has sure been nice to warm our hands by the fire. 


This is the 7th in an ongoing series of blog posts entitled /GAT Project/ They will appear regularly at this website, categorised under 'GAT Project'. If you'd like to receive future posts, you can:

- click here to subscribe to Steve's blog in general by email, or here in a reader.

- click here http://www.happysteve.com/contact/ and indicate 'GAT Posts Only' in the message body - I'll email you when I update the GAT Project just for the duration of the series.

- or regularly check this link for new posts: http://www.happysteve.com/blog/tag/gat-project