T’aint What You Do.

Last week I attended the #edchatnz conference, outstandingly organised by Danielle Myburgh and warmly hosted by Rototuna Junior High. Thanks to everyone involved.

As with any effective conference this one made me think about a wide range of things and what follows is a fairly random collation of these thoughts.

The dominant idea that seemed to provide a degree of personal cohesion to these two days and my subsequent thinking can be summarized by the Aretha Franklin song above. It is not enough to simply ‘do’ education we must be aware of the way we are delivering learning experiences,. The way we are ‘doing’ education is important if we want to be truly effective and relevant. This goes for all of us. teachers, whanau and most of all the learners. The process of learning is often as important, if not more important, than the product.

This process of learning in a school can be summarized further by a three word phrase that  I heard used at the conference;

‘Push-Pull- Share.’

Certain things are ‘pushed’ into our learners. Certain content related material simply has to be taught. The purpose of this ‘pushing’ though is to enable a counter action where material, ideas and innovation is ‘pulled’ out of the learners. In other words it is not what you do but the way you do it. It is not a case of just pushing content in, the pushing has to be done is a way that allows the learners to develop their confidence and skill mastery  so that ideas and knowledge can be pulled from them. This then leads to the sharing of new ideas, the collaboration and interdependence that benefits a wider group.I realise that these particular terms sound a little brutal but they do capture the process of learning quite well.

Another phrase used at the conference that resonated with me that links to his idea was;

‘Think like a Dandelion.”

Think with the intention of spreading not containing.This idea will be developed later in this blog.

The diagram below from Tom Downs details how the way we do things in a modern learning environment could differ from what we have done in the past.

tom downs

In the past we, as educators, could have been accused of encouraging our learners to collect dots. Collect knowledge, qualifications and experiences in a sometimes random and isolated manner but rarely encouraging the joining of these dots. There is now a emphasis on ensuring that these learning ‘dots’ are joined. The learning needs to be delivered in a way that enables the learner to join the dots between the parcels of knowledge that they are acquiring. That is if we want to empower our learners to.see learning as an authentic, connected and transferable process. As Aretha Franklin would say its not what you do but the way that you do it that is important.

The body of this diagram details that  this requires a shift on the part of learners and teachers alike,  a realignment of the way we ‘do’ things.if we are to encourage the full development of a young person.

And why do we need to do this? Well the two videos below go some way to answering this question.

Spotify is a hugely successful company. These two videos outline their organisational structures, how they ensure motivation  and how they maintain an edge.

What becomes apparent in viewing these two videos is just how adaptable the individual employees need to be, it is no longer just ‘doing’ a job but it is needing to function in a a collaborative, multifaceted organisation that challenges, empowers and motivates the individual to allow for the growth of not only the person but also the company..

A learning  process of ‘dot collecting’ will not prepare anyone for this type of work environment but one that encourages a ‘connection of the dots’ approach will.

It is about preparing our learners with the skills that they need to thrive in the Spotify world.


One of the speakers I listened to at the conference was a University professor who basically said that universities teach history. This made me think and reflect back on what we ‘do’ with learning in secondary schools. If all we do is tell learners what we already know then surely all we are doing is teaching history. There is, of course, a need to learn from the past, it is important that we are all aware aware that we,

“walk backwards into the future.”

We all learn from past in order to make progress towards the future but that alone is not enough, we have to develop learners who ask the questions that we have yet to find the answers for.

So again the way we ‘do’ education and learning must ensure that we learn from history and the past but also encourage and build the confidence of our learners to embrace the future world of work that is evident in the Spotify videos.

I really enjoyed the TED talk below that suggests it is not only how we work that is changing but also the motivation for the work we do that is moving from a competitive model to a collaborative, socially responsible one. This talk explains how the ‘open economy’ functions and the benefits to the process of work and innovation through the creation of ‘Creative exhaust’ that can be linked to this new look at motivation.

Frost takes the Artetha Frankilin song title and adapts it,

“It is not what you do but what you enable others to do.”


This idea is explained and discussed in detail in Chris Anderson’s book ‘Free, the Future of a Radical Price.”

So two days of thinking and provocation can not be summarised in a brief blog post but the main idea that that has solidified over the last few days revolves around the importance of providing educational experiences that enable learners to join the dots and not just collect them. The ubiquitous nature of technology and the fact that so much is now available free of charge online is challenging the notion of, not only how we work but why we work.

Social and collaborative skills sit alongside thinking and questioning skills as being of vital importance and we need to ensure that we provide time and space to develop them in our schools.

There I said it was gong to be a little random.



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