Let’s change the way teachers learn, so we can change the way teachers teach #mim14

We’ve just concluded our fifth Making it Mobile workshop, held at Northern Beaches Christian School. Excited and passionate educators arrived from Queensland, Victoria, ACT, UK, NZ  and Sydney.

At Making it Mobile we present a professional learning experience that gives meaningful and helpful input as well as providing teams with the time and the space to play with the ideas and create something they can implement with their students in the following week. The  professional learning is presented in a physical learning environment that recreates the open spaces at NBCS. IMG_1214

The workshop is held over two days. The first day has input from our SCIL team. A keynote from Stephen Harris sets the scene for rethinking the paradigm of school, then we commence the rolling workshops, practical, hand-on input to get started or perhaps grow as practitioners. IMG_1228

Our workshops are led by teachers who have been using these ideas and practices with their own students. We want participants to be able to implement new approaches to learning, that are collaborative and engaging no matter where they are. There is a process to the workshops across the first day:

101: Blooms Gardners Matrix – how engage students and provide choice with minimum resources and low tech

201: Personalise Learning – how can you use technology/apps to create exciting learning opportunitiesIMG_1230

301: Project-Based Learning – getting started in with PBL

All the while, participants are reminded of the theme for the following day:

What will you build?

The next day teacher-teams have the time and space to play with their ideas, a very rare luxury. The participants get to work, with the NBCS team who are on hand to provide on-the-shoulder help. As I walk around I am reminded of the phrase, “learning is hard fun”, eavesdropping on deep conversations about learning.

IMG_1220 IMG_1229


The day concludes with each team providing a quick visual summary of their learning, then participating in a gallery walk as ideas are shared and critiqued.

As I spoke to one of the excited participants, she passionately described what she had learnt and the ideas she will implement into her teaching and learning program on Monday.

It is very satisfying to see educators work through the process of anticipation, excitement, struggling with idea, engaging in deep conversations and emerging with real and tangible ideas.





Starting the year at NBCS: Putting the F.U.N in PD to build a positive culture of collaboration and connection.

We all knew it was coming.  It's a building site

At the end of 2013, as the school year was finishing, the construction (and demolition) crews were coming into NBCS. Project Barcelona, the much awaited development of transforming the physical space of ‘school’ into a whole new model was underway. The brief that principal Stephen Harris gave to the architect was to create a new heart of the school that provided a space for learning, connection and social interaction.

When the staff returned a week before the school year started they would see the
Barcelona Airport
significant disruption that Project Barcelona would potentially bring to their routines, the construction site is of significant proportions in the middle of the school campus:

Project Barcelona will define the heart and spine of the school campus and lead the way in new innovative learning. (WMK, Architect)

The inspiration came from Barcelona Airport, with its large canopy overarching the activity within. 

Under these conditions it is essential that staff commence the year with a positive frame of mind and then model and reinforce this to their students. It was going to be a challenging year and a half, but the outcome will be worth it.

What are the challenges facing the school’s community?

  • The hoarding erected around the perimeter of the site creates an inner ring of corridors, interspersed with viewing windows.

  • There are only two ways to get around from one side of the school to the other… the long way or the long way.

  • Perceived loss of gathering spaces (and toilets) for students

  • Significant rooming changes due to demolished buildings

  • The knowledge that this project won’t be completed until the second half of 2015

  • Noise, trucks, workers, dust.

This is not a scenario for the faint-hearted! It was important to be clear of the outcomes of the beginning of year staff PD Days:

  • Set a positive attitude for the year ahead

  • Staff to model this positive/can do approach to students

  • Staff are still able teach innovatively and collaboratively

  • Build the culture that we are all in this together

Stephen Harris devised a series of collaborative activities that would build community, get people working together, know their way around the school, make a contribution to enhancing the physical environment, tackle the pressing issues and, most importantly, have fun.

Each year at NBCS the week before school commences has a series of first gatherings

Day 1: Senior Leadership Team (SLT)

Day 2: Senior Leadership Team and School Executive Team (SET) – Learning Leaders and Stage/Grade Leaders

Day 3: All staff together.

This process began with the SLT. Stephen led the tour around the school, making note of toilet changes, learning space changes and the impact that these will have on the leadership of the school. And then the fun began.

The day before, he had created the first mural to brighten up the hoarding. It was an outline of himself. Then the SLT were placed in groups to devise a pitch that would build on this lonely figure to create something fun. Each group were to pitch their idea, Dragons Den style to the others. When the project was selected the SLT become the project team to make it a reality. This activity set the tone for creating a mural along the hoarding, but also put the SLT together within a collaborative project, working together on assigned roles and owning the outcome.

SLT Collaborative Project

The finished artwork

When SET arrived the next day the culture of fun and collaboration was underway. This larger group, together with SLT, about 40 people was set a different challenge for collaboration. Stephen presented a moderate budgetary allowance, to fund a way to encourage staff and build morale. Using the Dragon’s Den method of pitching an idea, combined with the Athenian method of casting votes with broken pieces of a clay pot, each group set to work. The composition of the groups were random, an important element of building community across the school. The winning group’s idea was selected after the old pots were smashed and each of us voted using a piece of clay.

On the third day of the series, the fun really began. Within a 90 minute time frame mixed groups of primary, secondary, admin and SLT were presented with the challenge:

Choose at least 3 of these activities and complete within 1.5 hour timeframe

Physical challenge: determine the fastest way your team can go on a lap of the short stay car park. Timed as a relay circuit. I'm pretty good at riding that chair

Art challenge: comedic / fun interpretation of some aspect of school life on a construction panel

Artists at work

Lego challenge: create a representation of a building at NBCS

Working with Lego

Photo challenge: photograph your team in an outrageous location or activity on site

The photo challenge

Film challenge: create a 60 second video advertising any aspect of the NBCS site as a holiday destination. Watch Steve Collis’ NBCS Caving Adventure on YouTube

The creativity that came out of the activity was amazing. The fun laughter and energy around the school was contagious, as people gathered art materials, film props, snuck into construction vehicles for photos and raced around the carpark. Along the way people learn new skills from their colleagues.

The initial outcomes were definitely achieved, but the greatest outcome was an incredible sense of community and connection amongst the staff. The newest teachers immediately felt like part of the community and we all had new and shared experiences that we could laugh about. In addition to these, there were team-based activities directly related to the work for the year.

Once the students arrived there was an atmosphere of excitement for what lay ahead.

How did the staff at your school year start?

How are you reinforcing your culture of community and collaboration?


Champion educators: There’s a place for boulders, but who are the new pebbles on the beach? #rethinkingPD

2013-09-05 04.19.01
I enjoy my Twitter community. I personalise my use to my interest, seeking out fresh voices of education, practitioners and leaders who are in the day-to-day business of great learning and leading. We all know the big names  – but who are the day-to-day expert voices, the real thought-leaders who are working with kids and leading great schools, making a difference in the lives of young people.

In his book We Think social commentator, Charles Leadbeater uses the metaphor of the beach, (obviously it’s an English beach, there aren’t any pebbles on an Australian seashore).

The scene would have resembled a large, sandy beach, with crowds organised around a few very large boulders. These boulders are the big media companies.

These boulders came into being because media had high fixed costs – print plants for newspapers and studios for television… Rolling a new boulder onto the beach took lots of people, money and machinery…

Now imagine the scene on the same beach in five years time. A few very big boulders are still showing, but many have been drowned by a rising tide of pebbles. As you stand surveying the beach every minute hundreds of thousands of people come to drop their pebbles. Some of the pebbles they drop are very small; a blog post or a comment on YouTube. Others are larger such as a video… A bewildering array of pebbles in different sizes, shapes and colours are being laid down the whole time, in no particular order, as people feel like it.

Pebbles are the new business. The new kinds of organisations  being bred by the web are all in the pebble business… Oddly some of the tiniest pebbles seem more powerful than the biggest boulders… the dynamic growing business is with the pebbles.

Attending the big headline events is more about the edu-rock star boulder-experience. It is inspiring to be in the same room with SKR speaking live on a screen from the middle of the night in the US or other international edu-celebrities. It still reinforces the one-to-many experience of learning and the sense of the big picture community is fun and exciting. But does this experience change practice?

There is so much to learn from the great practitioners, but who are they and where is their platform for influence.

Join with me to pick up the pebbles on the beach. Let’s find the great inspiring and humble practitioner and give them a voice. These are the true champions.

Who is your champion educator who should have a voice to a larger audience? Tweet me.


Making it Mobile… goes mobile again. Thanks Adelaide #mim13

As I sit on a sofa in the open learning area at Concordia College in Adelaide, around me are educators ‘playing’ – working on projects, developing ideas for their students and learning new tech tricks. Great learning is ‘hard fun’.


The premise of professional learning underpinning Making It Mobile is to provide a context for self-directed, passionate engagement and deep-thinking, in a way that doesn’t look like the usual teacher PD.

MiM2‘Embrace the Paradigm’ was the title of Stephen Harris’ opening keynote – that’s not ‘would you like to’ or ‘perhaps you should’ but you must. The world has changed dramatically and the paradigms are shifting, Kodak, Borders and Blockbuster didn’t keep up and didn’t reinvent and now they are obsolete. Education will always exist, but what if it becomes culturally obsolete? There is practically nothing worse than tick-a-box education.

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Working with the team Making it Mobile team – Steve Collis, Lou Deibe, Mark Burgess and Stephen Harris – we set up the space and asked the question…

‘How do we create the professional learning environment that looks and feels like The Zone* at NBCS?”

(*The opening learning space at NBCS in Grades 5 and 6 for 180 students and 6 teachers who call the space their learning ‘home’)

The professional learning space needed to provide:

  • flexibility

  • choice

  • personalised learning

  • collaboration

  • cave, watering hole and campfire spaces

Making it Mobile messes with educators’ heads. It has content to absorb, along with teacher-talk from experts and thought leaders, but there is also freedom, choice and trust. PD that looks and feels like the way students need to learn is an essential element of the experience. These two days  provide the luxury of time to listen, process, absorb and think.

Just when do educators have the luxury to learn and then think?

Next stop Newcastle and then Auckland in November 2013. And in 2014?

Who knows where we might end up.


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“I’ve been endorsed for what?” LinkedIn endorsements aren’t as good as personal connections

Each time I log on to LinkedIn I find that another person has kindly (thank you) endorsed me. Sometimes I know the endorsee, at other times, I don’t.

On the LinkedIn Blog last year the opportunity to endorse was announced:

Give kudos with just one click: On LinkedIn, you have many smart, talented, and skilled professional connections. Starting today, we are introducing Endorsements, a new feature that makes it easier to recognize them for their skills and expertise.

So for the purposes of Research, just so I can verify at least one of my endorsements, I have kindly accepted all the endorsements (thanks, again) to see the scope of what people think I can actually do.


I’m happy with Change Management being the most endorsed skill (Did I say thanks?) as that is probably one of the most common themes in my communication, along with Leadership. From there, Staff Development and Educational Leadership also fit, as I want to see people grow and encourage change in schools.

Some of the others, Volunteer Recruiting, Coaching, Leadership Development also reflect elements of my passion. But I wouldn’t really say that Moodle is a particular skill or expertise I possess (ask my colleagues), nor is Curriculum Design. And Research? This is about as deep I get into it.

So I need to let you know, dear reader, I don’t think much of the LinkedIn endorsements. I do appreciate that people, some I’ve never worked with or met, would like to endorse me, however, I just need to let you know that I won’t be endorsing you back.

Basically, I think that this is just one, in a long line of marketing ideas, that LinkedIn will introduce to keep us interested. If I do endorse you, I will do it personally.

But, hey, thanks for thinking of me .

What’s your strategy to keep Gen Ys engaged and interested in teaching for the long haul*? (You may have to lead them differently)

(*about five years seems to be the long haul for these guys)

Recruiting, training and retaining young teachers is a challenge. Gen Y have a high work turnover rate, so instead of rolling our collective Baby Boomer/Gen X eyes, maybe we should be considering how we keep them. We need them to stay. Our kids need great teachers.

In case you are wondering Gen Ys were born from 1980  to 1994. The oldest one are turning 33 this year and the youngest are 19. These are our current generation of new (ish) teachers. This is what research tells us

Generation Y are the most materially endowed generation ever. Currently aged 18-32, They are very tech savvy- bringing social media and productivity skills to the workplace.

The global generation- culturally diverse, mobile careers, travellers and globally aware. Gen Y aren’t just a product of their times, they’re also a product of their life stage.

They will work longer than previous generations with the retirement age and pension age pushed back. They will average more than 4 careers and 17 employers in their lifetime.

Forget the training manual or the staff meeting- enter the company vodcasts, instant messaging, and even content-laden music.

We will see an increasing trend towards people unplugging, and hotdesking: the era of activity based working. So the rise of ping-pong tables, well-equipped lunch (and breakfast) rooms, mini-nap spaces, time-out rooms, and outdoor gardens and green spaces.

Having managed to complete their pre-service education is one step toward their new career. A newly-minted education graduate wrote in an opinion piece recently:

After dragging myself to the finishing line, I have finally completed my diploma in education at a university in Sydney. I shudder in horror on behalf of the unwitting students who will follow in my footsteps, since in many Australian universities single-year diplomas in education are being phased out in preference for two-year master’s degrees. Or 24-month agonies, as I prefer to term them.

One of my friends, with a tutor who presumably has missed the last decade, was asked to present a slide presentation in which each slide had to have a different background colour, different fonts and a working hyperlink. Oh my. I shall put my typewriter away.

Not only does the pre-service education we provide need a good shaking, but also how we present teaching as a career worth investing in, once they have graduated.

According to McCrindle Research there are five key factors in recruiting and retaining Gen Y

1. Work/life balance

2. Workplace culture

3. Varied job role

4. Management style

5. Training

In summary – They don’t want to be workaholics, they want to belong and not have the same-old-day-in-day-out, they are seeking relationship and community from their supervisor and you’ll keep them longer if you challenge with new learning opportunities.

So, what do you need to think about in your school that will encourage teachers with great potential, the right attitude and aptitude to stay?

Clarity in standards and expectations – If work/life balance is important, then we can’t make assumptions about standards. Clearly state expectations.

Pay attention to culture –  There is a desire to belong. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer. Set the right culture for community and do what needs to be done to maintain the right temperature.

Provide opportunities – Find ways of throwing the curve ball, a new opportunity that can interest and excite from time to time.

Lead relationally  – Leaders are more effective in the context of positive relationship than an authoritarian style. It’s actually more enjoyable for everyone.

Keep sharpening the saw - “90% of Generation Y’s who receive regular training from their employer are motivated to stay with their employer”. Provide new ways to address their professional learning needs.

Those of us of earlier generations can bemoan the changing motivators of younger professionals, or we can appreciate them for what they bring.  Of course there are things that they need to learn and change, but so did we, once upon a time.


Kicking off the new school year. Never “same old, same old” here at Northern Beaches Christian School

In Australia the end of January is the start of the new academic year. Within a few days of getting back into it I usually gaze out the window, trying to recall the vacation and thinking to myself that perhaps it was just a dream?

(No, I really did have Christmas in Paris with my family)

Like many schools, Northern Beaches Christian School started the new year with a couple of days for professional learning activities with the staff. I have been the Director of Development at SCIL* for a few years and for the staff, each start to the new school year is always different from the previous year. Professional learning experiences are shaped around the key elements of the vision, reflecting the priorities of the year ahead.

This year, the priorities are GLO – Growth, Leadership, Opportunities. When the principal, Stephen Harris starts each year he outlines the priorities that will be the focus of the year, each of these areas are the further advancement to the vision:

Exceed Expectations.

Stephen expressed this further as he articulated the SCIL Learning Model

At its simplest form the SCIL Learning Model is essentially about learning and opportunity. On the one hand, there is a recurrent focus on developing a strong culture of self-directed learning, with an emphasis on critical and applied deep thinking. Project-based learning supports this approach well. On the other hand, we wish all students to recognise, have access to and take up opportunities that will grow them as pro-active compassionate leaders with integrity and moral strength, as they journey through their learning.

Central to the priorities is embedding project-based learning as a consistent element across the learning culture of the school, in every faculty, at each grade level.

1Like many schools, the first few days before the students return provide a valuable opportunity for professional learning and growth. This year it started with a session by an external facilitator, outlining the Apple model of challenge-based learning.

After some initial input and guidance, teaching teams set about developing their own interest projects that were then shared with their peers at the conclusion of the day. Embedded into the project was the use of an app or other element that may have been new to them.

The following day was set aside for the teams to critically analyse and develop how PBL can become a normal part of the teaching and learning at a faculty level.

In previous years teams have embarked on an ‘amazing race’ stye adventure around the city, imagining spaces for learning in all sorts of non-school contexts, or working on Bloom/Gardner’s matrix with like-minded peers to create a project that would improve a learning space within the school.

Do you see a pattern here with the professional learning?

  • Directly linked to the school’s priorities.
  • Immerses the teachers in the learning environment that we want for the students.
  • Teachers need work in teams.
  • ‘Facilitator talk’ is capped to the necessary 
  • Opportunity to pursue a passion or interest area
  • Challenge of using new technology as part of the project
  • Learn new skills necessary to complete the project

The professional learning opportunities gives the teacher the first hand learning experiences that we seek for our students.

If we want to change the way teachers teach, we need to change the way teachers learn.

Happy 2013!


*SCIL is the innovation and professional services focus within Northern Beaches Christian School. The SCIL Learning Model is currently being developed as a resource and will be available this year.

Reinventing professional learning at Making it Mobile, Auckland 2012 #mim2012

A brilliant bringing together of essential goals in education, matched to powerful methods of education for this age. It has opened up my mind to the means of unleashing creativity in children. (Participant)

Our team has just concluded hosting a two day workshop Making it Mobileheld in Auckland, at Albany Senior High School

What happens when you take 60 educators, turn traditional PD on its head and then let them loose to learn?

It’s engaging, inspiring and overwhelming.

What happens when professional learning looks like good students learning?

It becomes collaborative, creative, crowd-sourced and challenging.

What a buzz! Community of practice re-imagining the future! #mim2012

A few key principles that shaped our planning:

  • design principles in the development of content
  • presenting PD within a new paradigm
  • crowd sourcing professional learning
  • providing an open learning environment for adult learners
  • being highly relational in the approach

Anne says “We believe teacher learning should look like good student learning.” #mim2012

The result was two days of fast-paced learning with content input, on-the-shoulder guidance and “a buzz in the room [that] was palpable.”

@matonfender and @steve_collis are tweeting, obviously

The first day started with a keynote from @Stephen_h (Stephen Harris), principal at Northern Beaches Christian School and Director/Founder of Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning. He framed the opening session around the changing landscape of school education –  a profound learning culture, facilitated by technology, space and pedagogy that empowers and engages students.

Schools as a functional relational community as a base for learning  #mim2012

#mim2012 reinforcing teaching as inquiry to bring together to bring together thinking skills, differentiation and collaboration supported by ICT!

Love the genuine mix of student centred and sometime teacher lead learning landscapes at SCIL #mim2012

Don’t stay a teacher if you just want a comfortable job #mim2012

Interactive whiteboards? Like CDs – transition technology between records and itunes. IWBs – transition between whiteboards and #BYOD #mim2012

The remainder of the day practitioners scrolled through workshops led by @steve_collis, @matonfender, @ldeibe and @mosborne01


  • Lou Deibe – Learning Matrix
  • Steve Collis – Flipped Learning
  • Mark Burgess – Project-Based Learning

And from Albany Senior High School

  • Mark Osborne – with Unlimited Ideas

Learning matrix, what a great idea #mim2012

Creating a common language for PBL linking the scientific method, technology process and inquiry method #mim2012

#mim2012 designing an icon, quite enjoyed the process

icons need to be simple to visually de-clutter #mim2012

From battery hens to free range chickens – freedom of movement to the students @steve_collis #mim2012

if we relinquish control why is there not anarchy #mim2012

Edcanvas – great for gathering multimedia resources and sites for students #mim2012

On the second day, the theme was:

What will you build?’

What do I want to build? Answer is getting tougher with all the inspiring ideas #mim2012

Participants were encouraged to take the input from the previous day and build something. That ‘something’ may have been a project-based unit, a personalised learning matrix, using Edmodo or Edcanvas, planning for BYOD and a range of other practical ideas.

The Commons at Albany Senior High School became an open-space learning environment for educator-learners, with coaching from the SCIL team, pop-up training sessions and small groups planning great ideas for their students.

Participants were encouraged to host workshops on their areas of techie expertise – who says it’s the presenters who are the only ones to share?

The Twittersphere was abuzz with #mim2012 – sharing ideas and resources and convincing the laggards that there was more to this thing that what you had for breakfast.

The two days wrapped up with a promise to return in 2013.

We thought we were coming to use BYOD better, but have since realised we are changing our classroom practice. #mim2012

So many ideas for transformation. So happy to be involved with an innovative school #learningtransformation #mim2012

very thought-provoking couple of days #mim2012

Loving the work that I’ve been able to create after being inspired by a great deal of people at #mim2012 #crowd-sourcing = eavesdropping

Take a leap into the 21st century and change your pedagogical approach. Collaborate with the switched on educators from SCIL. (Participant)

An inspiring and thought-provoking range of workshops which really got my creative juices flowing. (Participant)

Would you like us to bring this workshop to your city?



Travel as professional learning challenges thinking & grows leaders: 10 reasons why #SCILvision12

The SCIL Vision Tour 2012 group travelled together for almost two weeks. Most only met one another for the first time in a hotel lobby in Helsinki, tentatively shaking hands with new travel buddies and wondering what the next fortnight held in store. Then, as we hugged and said goodbye in another hotel lobby, this time in London, we were all grateful for the shared experiences.

The details:

  • 13 days, starting in Helsinki and finishing in London
  • 10 people – 3 school principals, 4 senior leaders, 1 business person/entrepreneur and Stephen Harris and I, the tour leaders.
  • From 3 countries – Australia, New Zealand and Rwanda. Our colleague from Rwanda, also the business person/entrepreneur, joined us for the Europe week, seeking to gain ideas for growing the capacity of schools in his country.
  • Visiting 5 countries – Finland, Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands and UK
  • Spending time in schools, universities, libraries, co-working spaces and a science centre

This is the third study tour that we have run at SCIL – we deliberately call it the ‘Vision Tour’, as the purpose has been to lift vision. Not every school we visited was an architectural wonder or was pedagogically innovative, but each had something unique to offer. An important part of the journey was the people we met along the way – passionate educators, who love young people and are seeking ways to make a difference in their lives. The most inspiring of these were in the Manchester-Hull region of the UK.

As professional development, this opportunity is unlike any other, here’s why:

  1. Vision is lifted when I take myself out of my familiar context
  2. Thinking is challenged when I analyse the different ways the world works
  3. Ideas are shaped and reshaped through robust dialogue with hosts and amongst travellers
  4. Radar is always ‘on’ to learn from every experience and interaction
  5. Gain understanding of how culture impacts strategy
  6. The people we meet – Leadership insights from international peers as they share their own journey
  7. Talk to students to hear about their learning
  8. Professional learning starts over breakfast and concludes after dinner
  9. Shared experiences connect and increase accountability
  10. Close bonds are formed amongst the group

We had many wonderful experiences as a group and look forward to our further connections. Toward the end of the tour, on our final flight back to London half the group went for lunch at a Manchester Airport restaurant. I walked past, just as they emerged and we headed toward the gate and heard one say, “That was the best conversation of the whole trip.”  And I missed it!

The 2012 Vision Tour took months of preparation and the two weeks seemed to fly, yet it was so rich. It reinforced the value of such a unique opportunity for professional learning.

We have our thinking caps on for 2013. Care to join us?



Artichokes & the reflections of learning for purpose: Learning sticks when it fits

“Lifelong learner”, I first recall hearing the term 15 years ago, the importance of having a commitment to learning for life. It resonated. This idea has led us to think more broadly about learning, beyond job skills and job readiness to embracing the philosophy that learning is an essential element of an enriched life.

Last week we ran a two-day workshop for educators. The pace was relaxed and self-directed and the participants were passionate. We had ‘experts’ on hand as reference and the participants could dip in and out as they required. They were free to grab a coffee, check email and stop for lunch as they needed to. After some input sessions on the first day, the participants could then direct their own learning path for the second day. They had the opportunity to develop new ideas to take back to their own school. The learners drove the agenda.

In whatever categories we may fit – as student, employee, leader, curious-amateur, passionate enthusiast – the learning sticks when it fits, both us and the context. I have been reflecting on myself as a learner over this weekend.

I am a vegetable enthusiast, not a vegetarian. I find the variety, colour, shapes and flavours of vegetable provide so much opportunity for culinary creativity. As I walked through my fruit and vegetable market yesterday I noticed the artichokes – “2 for $5”. I don’t even know if that was a good deal, nor whether they were just $2.50 anyway. Nevertheless, on a whim I bought two, of course. Globe artichokes must be one of the weirdest looking vegetables. Not to be confused with Jerusalem Artichokes, which are a member of the tuber family, they are green and purple and a member of the thistle family. This is what Stephanie Alexander says in The Cooks Companion:

Artichokes have a reputation of being tricky to prepare and fiddly to eat. As a result, many food lovers have yet to tackle the boiled artichoke. The flavour is quite unlike anything else.

Prior to my whim in the fruit and vegetable market I hadn’t read what Stephanie wrote – but I that was exactly how I felt. I came home, looked at the two thistles and worked out, my *personal learning plan. (*By the way, at the time I didn’t think I was going to write about cooking artichokes, but it is interesting to reflect on how I tackled the problem.)

My first reference was Stephanie Alexander’s weighty tome, with the by-line “The complete book of ingredients for the Australian kitchen”. This is a classic, about 7cm/3 inches thick. The first edition, written in 1996 is arranged by chapters based on ingredients – more than 100. The book is great on detail for each ingredient – varieties, seasons, selection, storage, preparation and recipes. My favourite part in each chapter is “[Ingredient] goes with…” listing all the things that work and enabling me to be creative with whatever I have on hand.

While the depth of detail in Stephanie’s book is immense, it is a ‘text’ book, in the true sense. I needed a visual to be able to know what to do. Where to next? YouTube, of course. I watched a few videos on preparing, cooking and serving artichokes. Then to Google for a few recipe ideas and finally, once I had a picture of what to do, I returned to The Cook’s Companion. Then to work. I decided to cook each one differently – one baked, one boiled – to look at the difference. The baked had garlic cloves secreted inside along with lemon and oil, before wrapping tightly in aluminium foil. The boiled, was just boiled for 15 minutes. I served them with vinaigrette, explained to spouse how to eat and we enjoyed the somewhat messy experience. 

On reflection, what did I observe about my learning process?

  • Passion drove the need to learn
  • Authentic learning occurred when there was meaning/purpose
  • Know how I learn to maximise the outcome
  • Self-directed and self-paced meant I could process the information in my own time
  • Relied on a trusted reference for information
  • Check other untested sources against the trusted reference
  • Dive in. What’s the worst that can happen?
  • Reflect and evaluate
  • A sense of fulfilment from enjoying the process and achieving the goal.



It’s critical that we have a professional learning environment that encourages educators to be lifelong learners. The terms passion projects, problem-based learning and flipped learning apply within the professional learning context. The learning sticks when it fits. So what do we do about the  one-size-fits-all PD that is presented to educators, serving a growth industry through the necessary, but narrowly focused PD regulatory frameworks that exist within many jurisdictions? @anneknock