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: SCIL

Announcing: Steve's 'Innovate 5' Online Course

I am delighted to announce my launch of "Innovate Five": a 15-session live video-conference series focusing on 'capacity to innovate'. 

Click here for the official SCIL page where you'll find the registration links.

I'd appreciate you passing on word about the course to any colleagues who might be interested. It is open to everyone from any walk of life. 

Read on to hear a more personal account of it. 




The Heart of Innovation

Whether you're a teacher, a mum or an executive, a broader capacity to think and act innovatively opens new opportunities for making the world a better place. Innovation keeps society flexible, agile, ready to meet the future. I love innovation. I value it. I want to grow it in myself, and I love collaborating with other innovators. 


What is ‘Innovate Five’?

The course has grown out of my quest for mental toolkits that help enable creative thought, clarity and capacity to take initiative to 'get the show on the road' quickly.

The word 'capacity' sums it up for me; the shift from 'survive' to 'thrive' implies a sense of spare capacity.

I don't want to lead a reactive life. I want to be calm, centred and purposeful. Otherwise, in the noise of 2012, I'll just get blown away.


An Inventory System

I call Innovate Five an ‘inventory system’, because the process is aimed squarely at developing a meta-cognitive scanning process across five domains, which leave you with an inventory for future growth.

I’ve clustered toolkits under self, work, people, change, space: 






















You want as many of these kits working in your favour as possible. The greater the mastery of more of the toolkits, the greater your ability to nurture and maintain capacity in trying circumstances.  

You might already be instinctively strong in some areas, but less ‘awake’ to others in the grid. 

An inventory gives you a chance to identify what you don’t know that you don’t know, but also what you did know but brushed aside, or have been too busy to act on.


What is the format of Innovate 5?

60 minute video-conferences, once a week, in groups of up to 10, with presentation & discussion/debrief.

The course will include an optional reading program and optional homework tasks.

You need a computer with a reliable broadband Internet connection. 


Who is it for?

Anyone seeking to develop their capacity to generate and implement ideas to improve the world.

Not limited to educators. 


Is this a leadership course?



Is this a personal development course?

There is an overlap, especially in the 'self' dimension.

However, I frame personal development narratives in a strongly utilitarian fashion that may be unsettling to some. I emphasise a process of alienation that helps generate new insights and perspectives. And yet, this process is not designed to make you more vulnerable, but more profoundly safe; safe to be creative. 

The organising principle of 'Innovate 5' is capacity to innovate, not personal development.


How to Participate?

Sign up and show up! Our first group launches:

Thursday, March 8th, 8pm-9pm AEST (international times) (I can launch new series to suit your time zone)

Each series continues weekly, with some interruptions, until mid July. See booking screen for exact dates.


Not this time, but maybe later?

Get news on future re-runs by subscribing to our ongoing SCIL newsletter, or drop me a line here and ask to be updated when I launch re-runs of Innovate 5. 

A Third Party Perspective / Join the Tribe

What would a visitor take away from your school after visiting for a few hours? Or a day?

Or a week?


Béa and Oliver Beste

Béa Beste visited my school, (Northern Beaches Christian School) in March 2011 for two days, and then returned with her husband Oliver for the best part of a week before Christmas. 

We bonded immediately as kindred spirits. Béa had, previously, launched a series of bilingual schools in Germany and was travelling the world seeking inspiration for her next idea: 'playducation'. Béa understands the implications of the attention economy; that engagement is everything, imagination all powerful, inspiration un-stoppable. I decohered somewhat in my last post about 'life is desire', but the point is simple: learning comes from internal impulses. 

Béa took a LOT of video footage over her week-long séjour at NBCS in November. 


A Third Party Perspective

She has since mixed down hours of footage down to a 7 minute video which is likely to become my definitive resource for communicating what we're on about. First of all, I'm grateful to Béa for her hard work! (Thanks Béa!)

It's fascinating for me to see what a visitor notices. What was most salient? What stood out, out of everything?

SCIL Special Agents of Change from Bea Beste on Vimeo.

Themes Explored:

A bold vision: turning school into an 'airport of learning', and radically rethinking timetabling and physical spaces.

Vision first, administration second, and distributed-leadership rather than top-down.

Get ideas from other learning spaces, that aren't schools

Dissolve walls, even between 'inside' and 'outside'.

Possibilities open up with 200 students + 8 teachers in 1 large space, especially 'culture of sharing'.

Students in the driving seat, including co-desigining learning landscape. 

Teacher PD must be inline with the same principles. PD isn't lead from the front but is grass-roots. e.g. teachers on field trips to visit businesses around Sydney and investigate modern spaces. 

Safe-failing, risk-taking culture.

Connecting teachers and students to the world via the internet.

Teaching the curriculum, but going FURTHER, and not letting it constrain the pedagogy.


Gathering a Tribe, Building a Movement

I am delighted by the video and by what Béa saw after a week embedded in our school.

You know what? Our connection with Béa and Oliver is so strong because we recognise we belong to the same tribe

The tribe is rethinking learning. I suspect that you, o ye humble blog reader, are part of our tribe too, by virtue of spending your SPARE TIME reading about learning. Why would anyone spend their SPARE TIME on this!? You could be at the beach! No one has asked you to do it. No one is accrediting you. No one is paying you extra. No one has given you permission, a mandate or a deadline.

It takes courage to be in this tribe. Most of us had 13 years schooling learning how to DO SCHOOL. Then in our teacher training were taught how to DO SCHOOL. When we watch soap opera school scenes we're reminded how to DO SCHOOL. 

Courage to be in this tribe, because we reject the well-worn DNA, resist its momentum, refuse its answers, recant its first principles - but if we leave the well-worn path, where will we go instead?

It's a conversation:

Learning Experiences from SCIL on Vimeo.


The tribe is open for membership, no interview required, no papework. It's conceptual: your name isn't written anywhere. It helps if you tweet or blog, but there's no rules, and there's not even a territory mapped out (we're the surveyors). You may be a lone ranger at your school. That's ok, you can be like a secret spy seeking to overthrow the ancien régime from the inside, lighting a little fire in your own backyard.

If you're in the tribe, wave at me, won't you? Leave a comment and say g'day!

P.S. Keep your eye on SCIL in 2012 - we're keener than ever to help build steam in the transformation movement. 

The School That Utterly Changed

I am always so frustrated by the inability of words to capture the bizarre transformation that has whirl-winded my school into a different dimension over the last 5 years. Everyone who visits says "I heard about this but I only understand now I can see it in action."

Well you should still come visit us, but in the meantime, these videos are a realistic window into business-as-usual at NBCS in 2011. 

The change has almost entirely come within the last 5 years. The seeds were being sown previously, but then it just went ballistic! The scary thing for us is that the change is noticably speeding up, even since, say, last term. Ahhhh heeeelp we're falling into an educational singularity! (yay!)

Video #1 - The Zone

The Journey: Tomorrow’s School Today at SCIL from SCIL on Vimeo.


180 students + 6 teachers + one large space = inspiration. 

The male teacher who speaks early in this video is Skender Cameron, who has been teaching for decades in the old paradigm. Now he is one of a team of teachers acting as shepherds over all of Year 5 and 6 as they work in one large open space we call 'The Zone'. Students flexibly group up and regroup depending on the context and their learning profile (which is constantly redefined). 

Skender articulates succinctly why the new paradigm works so well on a professional level, and the students describe their own experiences working in an organically flexible environment.

Why does the chaos not collapse in on itself? Chantelle explains how we create a kind of scaffold - a digital learning ecosystem, that allows every student to know where they are and where they're going, even as they choose their own path.

So it's not chaotic, it's organic, and mixture of culture, community, and digital landscaping holds it together. I've provocatively entitled an upcoming conference presentation "Anarchy in Learning" because of this bizarre paradox: the more we let go of control, the more students rise to the occasion. 

Video #2 - Year 8 Quest Program

The Quest: Tomorrow’s School Today at SCIL from SCIL on Vimeo.


140 students + 6 teachers + one large space = no conflict and a love of learning.

In the video my colleague Mark Burgess (@matonfender, blog), Director of 21st Century Learning, talks over footage of our Year 8s. What is gobsmacking is that teachers aren't wasting energy on conflict with the students. "Classroom management" is a non-issue. It's a non-word for us. A dream?! But true!

I am so proud of how far our school has come. We are so conscious of how far we still have to go, but now the innovation spot-fires have turned into a raging bush-fire. Teachers aren't even asking permission anymore let alone waiting to be prompted. The innovation is being pulled along from the grassroots-level. 

Come visit us! We'd love to have you! My school website is www.nbcs.nsw.edu.au and our visitors program is here: www.scil.nsw.edu.au.

Stay in touch with me: subscribe to ths blog in a reader / by email.

My school's innovation newsletter: http://www.scil.nsw.edu.au/newsletter (We're trying to gather a tribe-for-change!)

Our principal's blog: http://imaginelearning.tumblr.com