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! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

Click on "contact", won't you, and wave right back at me?

Filtering by Tag: Community of Practice

Crowd-Source, Collaborate, Cross-Pollinate

For years now at NBCS our professional development has been almost entirely in-house and almost entirely consisted of cross-pollination and crowd-sourcing. We have no IT integrators. We have an executive structure but the emphasis is on distributed leadership and spontaneous "DO IT NOW" collaboration and innovation.

Our full-staff PD day last week included this creative collaboration:

And then the next day staff grouped themselves up and selected their own mini passion project, to be completed in a whirlwind within 4 hours. 

Our Stage #3 team were inspired by Yayoi Kusama's "Obliteration Room", and managed to whip up their own in no time (Skender ran home to get an old table... someone must sourced white paint from somewhere):

The students will add stickers all over the place (earning each one, mind you, via a gamified structure).

Elsewhere, Ben Hedstrom, Amanda Hill and colleagues are redeveloping the music rooms to an open-plan student-directed structure. They will crush the distinction between year groups: different classes and ages will share the space simultaneously, forming a semi-professional studio, the older mentoring the younger.

Another team made a boredom buster station:


I'm not sure what this was but it looks fantastic:


Some Visual Arts staff recycled their own previous works, I believe by cutting it into strips and mashing it up again. Their vision for the art spaces is busting them open into a Parisian studio, with no clear distinction between the inside and a creative, rive gauche esplanade in the open air. 

Tim Barrett and colleagues made some new furniture, and videoed the process!

The day ended with some crowd-sources post-it thoughts:

The crowd-sourcing of teacher development is the most powerful PD you can offer. Teachers have limited need for outside experts - a more pressing need is space to collaborate, then cross-pollinate.

Two weeks ago I worked with two Brisbane schools for a day. Walking in as an outsider to a new context, I took a hunch on the crowd-source/collaborate/cross-pollinate processes and allocated three sessions in the day for them. It worked a treat, and I don't see why it won't work anywhere. I think it's fine to have top-down leadership: we all want to look up to a leader to help steer the ship, BUT what joy and power there is in grassroots, bottom-up collaboration. No one controlling, no one waiting to act.

It's beyond the scope of this post (it's dinner time) but it's fascinating watching the business world shift in the same direction, to the same distributed-leadership model. All about agility, flexibility, contextual-leadership etc.

And on that note I will abruptly finish this post. I have a roast waiting! 

9 Year Olds in a Community of Practice

A brief break from the /GAT Project/ series, although this topic is highly relevant.

On Thursday afternoons I've been supervising groups of Year 4 students as they discover our school 3D virtual world environment, which we run with free Open Sim (*) software.

Before we go on, whatever you do, watch the video below before you leave this page!

It is hilarious, and instructive, to stand back and observe the way these little people are enticed by the environment, make their own discoveries, and then share the discoveries with each other. Different students become experts in different skills, and are sought out by the others. I don't teach them.

As I observed the incredible scene around me, I thought to myself: this pretty much sums it all up for me. 

I quickly whipped out my phone and captured the scene on camera.

Listen to what the students are saying to each other (or screaming at each other!). Watch out hyper-engaged they are. You couldn't stop them from learning if you tried. They're unstoppable. 

And notice how they're oblivious to my presence. I'm invisible. They don't notice I'm filming. They're not asking me questions. I'm irrelevant. I've done myself out of a job. They're teaching each other. Every students is a teaching-and-learning node:


Once we've witnessed this dynamic occur, once we've seen what's possible, how could we ever go back to a teacher-centric model of pedagogy? I'm going to show this video to everyone I meet from now on, and say "Do you see!? What more is there to say!?"

In teacher-centric model, the teacher sets the agenda, then requests that the students become complicit in that agenda.

In a learning-central model, the students bring the agenda, and become complicit in each other's learning. The so-called 'teacher' becomes complicit in the students' agendas. 


(*) A collaborative 3d space, where each student has an avatar and can discover, communicate, and work together to build the world. Objects can be created, sculpted, sewn together, and programmed using code to behave in particular ways.