It’s that time of the year!!

IMG_1640I’ve always loved people who think differently. And here’s a bank that’s doing it. They recently encouraged me to sign up for a new credit card, and the self-addressed envelope just made me laugh. Their office address? ANZ Centralised Fulfilment Centre.

And you know, it’s that time of the year when we need to do this type of thing. Otherwise, the relentless workload (and sometimes, the tedium) can wear us down.

November is an interesting time, is it not? Close to a holiday; but not close enough. And the heat builds up (at least where I’m living!), and small issues just seem to magnify out of all proportion. Yet, it’s one of the best times to find out more about your resilience and deep character.

It’s my contention that you aren’t tested when everything is going well. It’s not an issue to be happy, well-adjusted, and to generally treat everyone else superbly when you’re relaxed. We’re all fairly pleasant when we’re not being stretched.

Your character is tested when you’re overwhelmed with stuff in your life, and when you’re spending just a bit too long on your sleep deprivation studies. That’s often when the real person comes to the fore. Like, about now. And it’s now that we need some of that sparkle and creativity in everyday events.

Especially so in schools. I’m seeing some interesting dynamics in some classrooms lately. And it’s pretty obvious that not everyone is coping with the pressures of this time of the year. A rank understatement, I can tell you.

I’m starting to feel that way myself. As well as working on a 30-day project for a group called ISQ (Independent Schools Q’land), I’m doing lots of other consultancy work, I’m negotiating all sorts of exciting work in 2010 (which takes ages), I’ve been overhauling 3 different websites (more on that below), I’m off to Singapore this week for some super-interesting new work, and I’ve just released a new version of my Thinkers Keys.

And that’s just during the daytime!!

So, given all of that, some quick things here:

* If you previously signed up for an email subscription to my blog, that will finish with this email. If you’d like to continue to receive my blogs, you’ll just need to sign up again at www.tonyryan.com.au (that’s my new site); or to use the RSS Feed.

* Although I’m not totally into twitter, I usually mention something there if I think that it’s a worthwhile issue for teachers. If you like, have a look at http://twitter.com/aussietony and even sign up if you’d like more of those type of ideas.

* And yes, I’ve just released my latest version of Thinkers Keys. Absolutely my best yet. A set of twenty A5 cards for use in classrooms, with a cool little booklet to go with it all. If I’ve worked with you in the past year or so, I’ll send out a Thinkers Keys Pack over the next couple of weeks.

I also intend to develop two further electronic versions: one will be a free site that encourages kids to create solutions; and the other will be a fully-fledged Thinkers Keys, with all sorts of powerful processes for enhancing student thinking.

Lastly, I intend to keep my Latest Joke section on the new blog updated pretty regularly. For most jokes, I’ll restrict them to ones that could be used in classrooms. Laughter and creativity often go together, and it’s the perfect time of the year for both!

New Site


The Ten Laws Of ULearn-ing

enyaAnother inspiring week at the ULearn conference over in Christchurch NZ last week. A deeply impressive place and space, for those who don’t know about it. To all of my Aussie and Asian readers especially…. I recommend it very highly. In early Oct each year. And you could even tag it on to a holiday in a beautiful place!

If you’re into outright spectacle, not much beats the grandeur of their conference dinner. Here up above is my rather ethereal IPhone snap of the Enya impersonator (and a very impressive one) who provided some of the entertainment.

As part of my ULearn contribution, I’m now going to offer to you The Ten Laws Of ULearn-ing (well… from my perspective, anyway). While you’re welcome to adapt these to your own conference / session / talkfest anywhere in the world, I have specifically drawn these up for the magic that is ULearn.

So here we go with the Ten Laws:

1. The Law Of Frivolity. You’re a teacher. You have to know how to play (or, I sure hope you do). And ULearn gives you endless frivolous opportunities. The conference dinner (see above), the entertaining sessions, the one-off conversations with interesting people.  Call it whatever you like. Fun. Zest. Excitement. Play.  It’s all there; and it makes for a fantastic three days.

2. The Law Of Insight. Insight has to come before information. The knowledge that you can gather at ULearn is quality stuff. Yet what’s even more important is that you are challenged to develop deeper insights about that info. It’s when you say to yourself: “…..Aha…so that’s how it could work for me.” It’s the insights that will enhance and reform your practice. You get lots at ULearn. I had several powerful ones this year.

3. The Law Of Chronology. You save time by attending ULearn. Wha..? How the heck can you save time when you’ve actually given up 3 days of your holidays to be there? Well, that’s the rub. Where else would you find all of this knowledge (and insights) packed into just 3 days? It would take you months to compile it all by yourself.

4. The Law Of Andragogy. Yeah…OK. It’s a big word. Live with it. It refers to adult learning (as compared to pedagogy ie child learning). It’s critical that you do lots of it. And it’s what you do when you attend a top conference. You Learn (….U Learn?!). But I’m talking about having a lust for that learning. And I mean a lust. If you don’t, then you’re a hypocrite if you’re hanging in on teaching. You have to model that learning desire to kids everywhere. And ULearn is packed with lustful learners (Hmmm… maybe I need to express that some other way!!)

5. The Law Of Community. If you could scroll through all of the attendees, you’d find people who could give you the answers to any professional question you’d ever need to ask. So just ask around, and create a learning community. It might end up just being a 5-min learning community; or a lifetime one.  It’s the new time management. Find someone else who’s already done it, and pick their brains. It saves you having to search for it yourself. You can create these immediate learning communities at breakfast; in the lift; on the dance floor; on a bus ride. ULearn is packed with people who want to share. Get 2gether with them.

6. The Law Of Twitter. Or whatever other online networking environment that takes your fancy during and after ULearn. The point is, it just makes life easier when you network online. Oh yes it does. If you’re still lamenting about and longing for the good ol’ days when everyone just talked to each other in real life, then you may need to get over it. Just take the plunge, and you’ll see how easy it is to source ideas when you need them. It’s what we call Collective Intelligence; and it’s very important that you align with that global intellect.

7. The Law Of The Young. ULearn strongly involves students all through the conference, and because they are the focus of our work, we must pay deep respect to their needs and their future. As well as being super-helpful to the attendees, these young people are a constant reminder of what teaching is all about. And that is: To create inspiring learning experiences for them!

8. The Law Of Consumption. I don’t care what anyone says. If a conference serves up stale sandwiches with spray-on chicken, it’s missed the opportunity to be sensational. The ULearn food is first class. As is the mind food; and the soul food.

9. The Law Of Adulation. For the organisers, that is. Core Education do a brilliant job with this conference. I assure you that the hours stretch endlessly into the distance when they’re getting it altogether. Just bow deferentially the next time you walk past one of them. And it’s the same for anyone who devotes so much professional energy and time to co-ordinating these events. They deserve adulation, because their efforts support quality professional learning for you.

10. The Law Of Returns. Savour your return upon the following year. Expectation is good for the heart and soul. Just looking forward to something is magic in itself. It has deep spirit to it. As you savour that next ULearn experience, keep thinking: which speaker will inspire me to lifechanging action? Which genius will I meet on the bus? What’s the strangest outfit that someone will wear to the dinner? Looking ahead also challenges you to ponder: What will I accomplish between now and then? Now there’s a thought! What will you create between now and then?!!!

Zest Practice

Ever heard of Zest Practice? Probably not, because I just made it up. I’m seeing it as a subtle yet distinct advance on Best or even Next Practice. It’s basically a no-holds-barred exhilarating immersion in your professional work.

Let me build up to this.

Ever heard of ‘best practice’? Who hasn’t? It tends to go along with ‘raising the bar’. Whatever that means. Probably refers to the fact that you’re working so damn hard that you need to drink even more to cope with it all.

World-best practice? There’s nothing inherently wrong with this concept. If you want to develop practice that is of astonishingly high quality, then this is a good thing. It’s just that the term gets bandied around so much these days, and it’s then difficult to know what it really means.

Some advances on ‘best’? Have you ever heard of Next Practice? Best is now, Next is whatever will be the best up ahead. Has been championed by the Innovation Unit in the UK, although first proposed by C K Prahalad, author of The New Age Of Innovation. Here’s a succinct comparison:

Best cf Next

Derek Wenmoth over in NZ has mentioned this in an earlier blog as well. A good summation on Next Practice here from Derek.

Just for the heck of it…. I’d like to propose a further advance on Best and Next. Let’s refer to it as Zest Practice. Why Zest? For starters, it rhymes with best and next. It also indicates that it will focus on spice and energy… which is surely what education needs to be about.

Zest also has intimations of Zen. Given the relentless pace that too many people experience in their lives, they’ll all need a touch of deep spirit and revitalisation if they’re going to thrive through the next five years.

Some key points about Zest Practice??

* It would compel people to turn up. They would want to be there, because they would experience inspiration through the experience. Zest Practice would become a lodestone, a magnet, for inspiring practice.

* It would be provocative to the established order. Until it became the accepted way of doing things, Zest Practice would be considered as too risky by the mainstream.

* It would be based upon deep inquiry. A challenge would exist, and the process of resolving that challenge would necessitate an ongoing model of exploration and inquiry.

* Zest Practice would require a co-evolving learning environment. Learning 2gether, participants would adapt according to the flow of learning that occurred throughout the experience

* Zest Practice would lose sight of the shore. It would be uncomfortable and unsettling, because it would not yet be a practiced part of your everyday routines.

* Zest Practice would require, and indeed, would encourage, a deeper regenerative energy. Too many of our present global structures (including most educational bodies) consume energy, and exhaust their participants. A Zestful approach would regenerate your energy because of your inspiration for accomplishing the experience.

Three questions for you:

Q. Where do you presently engage in Zest Practice?

Q. Where could you engage in Zest Practice?

Q. Where will you engage in Zest Practice?

What’s Innovative??

IMG_1554What does it really mean to be ‘innovative’?? I hear schools often saying that they are. Can’t say that I always agree, although I’m not necessarily qualified to judge. Who can determine that anyway?

Perhaps it’s a matter of context. If nothing else nearby is a stand-out, then perhaps they are. At least, according to them.

I recently visited a Year 9 to 13 public school called Unlimited. Can be found in Christchurch NZ. Really worth a closer look. This is their foyer in the picture. Would have to admit, at least from my perspective, they’re innovative. Especially for a secondary environment. Cruise the site, and you’ll see what I mean.

I’m facilitating a session on ‘Innovative Teachers’ at the U-Learn conference in ChCh (that’s Christchurch, just in case you were wondering) in a couple of weeks, and so I’ve been doing some thinking on what to offer. Does this mean that I’ll have to make the session innovative in itself?? A bit hypocritical if it isn’t, I suppose. whew.

So for now, I’m sorting through a few examples of what might constitute ‘innovation’.

Is this innovative (Take One)?

The 2009 Open Architecture Challenge for Classrooms. Some fantastic designs here. However, I sometimes wonder just how much the pedagogy alters as a result of the new building. Basically, it too often doesn’t… unless the teachers adjust their paradigms. Which is what troubles some of us in Aussie with our BER (Building Education Revolution). Megabucks spent on new halls and classrooms (which, of course, is fantastic in itself), yet there’s no guarantee that the learning itself will be accentuated.

Is this innovative (Take Two)?

What about Plastic Logic?? There are now a number of e-Readers on the market. They’re sure going to mess up the textbook industry!! Here’s a 90-sec take on their use.

Is this innovative (Take Three)?

Had the pleasure of walking through a Leonardo da Vinci ‘machines exhibition’ on the weekend in Brisbane. Whatever innovative means, this guy was IT. How did he develop this stuff 500 years ago? IMG_1623Perhaps one of his most famous inventions was the aerial screw. The precursor to the helicopter. In his designs, Leonardo determined that it would be powered in one of two ways:

1. By four men who would push levers as they ran around the base; or

2. By means of a rope that was quickly unravelled from around the axle.

By those means, it never would have flown. However, with a stronger means of propulsion, it indeed would have taken off.

And finally (for now), is this innovative (Take Four)?!!

Google Wave

Is it ever! Google Wave will become one of the most powerful means of personal communication on the planet by mid-2010. Just imagine email mixed with FaceBook mixed with Flickr mixed with Google Translate.

Ponder this. You could be writing a message to 10 different people around the planet. As you write, they can read your text live. Not only that, those 10 people could be from 8 different countries. No issue if they speak and read and write in a different language. Google Translate will instantly translate it for them. And when they reply in their language, it will immediately be translated back into English for you.

More at http://wave.google.com/ The video goes for 80 mins. However, you can get a fair sense of it in the 1st 8 mins or so. As you watch, ponder what you’ll be able to do with this!

Is the world about to end??!

AnticrisisSo South American. I spotted this message on a cafe window in Buenos Aires back in July. Just get over the whole global meltdown scenario, it was saying to me, and let’s get on with life.

Compare that to a group of people I recently overheard in conversation. To a person, they were lamenting the state of the world today. In most circles, we’d call them prophets of doom. And the pending holocausts (at least in their minds) almost seemed to be something that they wanted to see. Blowed if I know, but they appeared to be getting their kicks out of believing that something terrible is imminent.

Part of the issue, for me, is that this group of people live in one of the most affluent countries on the planet, every one of them has permanent employment, and, as far as I could tell, they seemed to be reasonably healthy. Well, physically anyway. In the most literal sense of the expression, they really do need to get a life.

Now don’t get me wrong here. Perhaps there will be a series of difficult issues up ahead. I’m no Pollyanna; and I support the contentions that the world presently is carrying too much debt, and that we need to act on global warming immediately, and that there are still massive gaps between the haves and have-nots on a wide variety of resource issues.

However, I also know that the collective human spirit, when suitably inspired, will overcome anything. Without exception. Our history is replete with examples of this application of spirit.

However (and it’s a BIG however), it’s still a matter of individual and collective choice as to whether or not we make the effort to release that spirit. We each, and together, create our own lives through the choices that we make every day.

Here’s an abject reality. If you think that your life is going to be miserable, it probably will be.

Here’s another reality. If 6.7 billion people think that the world has a miserable future, then it probably will be.

The concept of self-fulfilling prophecies is more than just a theory. It is often referred to as the Pygmalion Effect. The self-fulfilling prophecy, in other words. If you are convinced that something is going to happen, it actually is more likely to occur. You will sub-consciously (and sometimes even consciously) create situations that are more likely to take place.

So, given all of that, I have two questions for you:

Q.1. Out of ten, what would you predict the next five years of your life to be like? (one would be horrendous, five would be OK, ten would be extraordinary)

Q. 2. Out of ten, what would you predict the next five years of life on this planet to be like?

I’m giving myself a 9.5, and the world a 9. And you know what? I’ll bet that, for me, it’ll probably be about right. So what are your scores?

And here’s my very specific point about all of this. What’s the average score for all of humanity right now? Because, whatever it is, that’s probably where we’ll end up.

And that’s why, when I overhear groups of people in conversation, I would hope to hear people talking about the inspiring possibilities, in which we will collectively release our human ingenuity and spirit.

In your very next dialogue, please focus on the inspiration of solution. And encourage others to do the same.