Focus: Treatment for Education’s ADD

Reflections on treating Educational ADD

Here are four suggestions for dealing with the Attention Deficit Disorder that may keep your school from articulating its vision, its real purpose for existing.

1) Stop believing in silver bullets – Like any complex human endeavor, especially one that’s been practiced in a fairly specific way for decades, there is no single, easy, fix.  Because technology is so amazing, it’s understandable that we imagine some new gadget/software/environment/etc. could come along to instantly transform our schools into what we want them to be. But here’s a reality check: it’s just not going to happen. Let’s stop waiting for miracles and get to work creating one.

2) Don’t Jump to Solutions – All these great ideas that people come up with tend to be strategies designed to solve particular problems. Using them without considering the big picture is like taking someone else’s prescription because it works for them.  Or think about it in the military sense of “winning the battle, but losing the war.”  Schools are far too full of strategies that end up running at counter-purposes to each other. We initiate iPad programs and ban phones from classrooms.  We engage students in making Public Service Announcement videos, but block Tumblr. We deploy Khan Academy but don’t challenge students to apply mathematical understanding in authentic tasks.  So don’t even worry about, let alone debate or implement, new strategies until you’ve really dealt with #2 below.

3) Focus on your Vision – The incessant flow of “new ideas” assures distraction, perfectly illustrating the oft-quoted “Chinese Curse:” May you live in interesting times. Caught in the blur of the new, Education puts no attention on the significant.  What is the purpose of your school?  A purpose that every teacher, student, parent and community member knows, lives and breathes.  This is not a workshop brainstorm and a tagline on school stationery, but a systemic exploration and validation of your institution’s DNA. One fantastic attribute of the 21st Century is that we don’t all have to be the same.  Slavish uniformity is out and flourishing excellence is in.  So what will be your school’s claim to excellence?  Developing a real vision for your school will not be the product of an after school PD session (although it might start there), but rather a long-term effort that includes input from present and past students, parents and a wide-ranging exploration of what challenges and opportunities await our students throughout their lives.

4) Build a Curriculum that Realizes your Vision – Lucky for us, we have a means to achieve our vision. And, in the buzzing of new ideas and Ed Tech ADD distractions, it probably sounds like the oldest, most boring solution: our curriculum. It’s something that touches every student and teacher in every grade level and course.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that an impoverished definition of curriculum often prevents this powerful tool from realizing its potential.  Start with the vision: what amazing things do we want our students to achieve?  what does successful achievement look like?  Let’s make authentic performance of these achievements the heart of our curriculum.  To encourage success, let’s be specific about success criteria and provide samples of such achievement by previous students.  This is the kind of assessment that guides students and empowers their ownership for learning.  None of this will happen over night and none of it is easy.  But nothing in teaching is easy so why not focus on what will make a real difference?

A Day with Stella Maris


stella1Today is a full day of professional learning with the whole staff of Stella Maris College.  As the starting point for everything, we’ll see what people see as the Challenges they face.


Here’s a list of the main points we’ll focus on for today:

  • Understanding the challenges we face
  • Defining how we see our job
  • Setting a clear, indisputable and shared vision of our goals for students.
  • Using technology to facilitate authentic, engaging and personalised learning
  • Considering what’s needed to revise the curriculum to support 1:1 Digital Learning

Activity #1: Your Greatest Challenges

Brainstorm (anonymously?) the greatest challenges of your job


Activity #2: What is your Job?

  1. Work in your small groups to discuss this question.
  2. As a small group, compose one sentence that best captures your group’s thinking?
  3. One at a time each group will modify a compilation description:

What is your Job? One Sentence Essence

When you are not the “modifying group,” you will engage in Activity #3 below.

Activity #3 – Explore “Look to Learns”

While your colleagues are modifying the “One Sentence Essence” of your job, please explore the links below. After this “discover immersion” session, You will be asked the following questions:

  1. What are the key components of the activity format?
  2. What do you think the purpose of these activities are?
  3. What would be the educational value of such activities?
  • Also – Explore the latest Look to Learn’s in the Stream or Archive

Morning Tea

Activity 4 – Review & De-brief


  • Challenges: Logistics or Learning?: Wordle and Word Doc
  • Review – 20th vs 21st Century Schooling?
  • Presentation on Learning?

Our Job

  • Review the One Sentence Essence & its evolution.
  • Our Job: Teaching or developing successful Learners?

Activity 5: Our Mandated Job – Learning in the 21st Century

Presentation – How 1:1 Changes “School”

Melbourne Declaration

“The development of the Australian Curriculum will occur over three broad timeframes and is guided by two key documents: the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (pdf) and the Shape of the Australian Curriculum (pdf).”

from the opening paragraph on the Curriculum page of the ACARA Web site.

Validation from the Shape of the Australian Curriculum:

The curriculum development work of ACARA is guided by the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, adopted by the Ministerial Council in December 2008. The Melbourne Declaration emphasises the importance of knowledge, skills and understanding of learning areas, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities as the basis for a curriculum designed to support 21st century learning.

The Melbourne Declaration’s vision of “successful learners” (what would you add?)

Where’s the Teaching?

Activity 6 – Look to Learn


Look to Learn

Edge-ucators Way

  C E QA LL / Seek all!

Self-managed Learning Framework for students