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From pockets of innovation to an innovative culture


On Friday 9th November, a group of ACT educators met with Canadian principal and consultant George Couros.

Rethinking School

George started out by challenging our perceptions of school and of the online environment – what do we understand about Twitter and our own digital footprint, and how can we possibly compete with a participatory web that our students are using every single day? He shared some great examples of how blogs written by children had a global reach, and how students were remixing content and creating quality digital products that were shared across the globe.

One story that George shared demonstrated the impact that a simple blog could have. He told us about Martha Payne, a young Scottish girl whose blog posts about her daily school meals prompted interest from Jamie Oliver, a change in the menu and helped her raise a lot of money for children in Malawi.

But that’s not the message. The message is that the web is a powerful force, and children are already using it in amazing ways. More importantly, these amazing things that the kids are doing are happening outside of school hours (or in spite of school). He challenged us to think about the ways that we could change school to bring these experiences into the classroom.

We do have some great innovative practice going on in Canberra already. Teachers, students, and sometimes whole schools are taking it upon themselves to harness the great tools we have at our disposal and create engaging, meaningful and robust learning experiences that are at the heart of what George was talking about. Our challenge is to turn those ‘pockets of innovation’ into system-wide innovative practice.

George wrote an interesting blog post about his trip to Australia. You can read it here.

Our Digital Footprint

Many of the people in the room on Friday already had an online presence. Some didn’t, though by the end of the day many of them were excited about the potential of  sites like Twitter. But the main point that George was making is that it doesn’t matter whether we’ve cultivated it or not, we all have an online presence (have you Googled yourself lately?), and unless we take charge of it, we have no control over what the perception of us might turn out to be. You’ve all heard the story about the folks who got fired because of some dumb Facebook stunt…

So would it hurt to take charge of our digital footprint? Post some enlightening stuff on a blog, reply to a Tweet with some great advice, share our best practice with the world? For some, that’s enormously confronting, but George (and many others) says that the world’s changing. Is it our responsibility to keep up? To set a good example for our students?


The other eye-opener from Friday was Twitter. Some of us have been using it for a while: some extensively and daily, some as observers, and some as occasional Tweeters. But George showed us the power of Twitter in building networks, sharing resources and getting instant help and feedback. For both teachers and students.

I won’t do Twitter justice by trying to explain it, especially when others have done it so well already. If you would like to know more about the power of Twitter, I’d recommend reading one or two of these articles:

Humanizing Our Organisations Through Social Media by George Couros

The Remarkable Power of Twitter: A Water Cooler for the 21st Century by Jeff Goldstein

3 Tips for Teachers New to Twitter by Bill Ferriter

100 Ways to Use Twitter in Education from Edudemic

If and when you decide to join Twitter, please make sure you check out the #ACTlearn hashtag. We would love to have you in the conversation!

What do you think?

So, to get back to the title of this post, and how we do move from the pockets of innovative practice to an innovative culture, perhaps building our digital presence could help. If nothing else, it presents us with the opportunity to broaden our networks and become more global in our focus. What do you think?

Post by Mel



  1. As part of a staff whom were fortunate enough to have George visit and enlighten us, I completely understand your sentiment. Not only has his visit enthused a collective tapping on iPads and iPhones in tweeting hysteria, it has made an impact on how we look at infrastructure, curriculum planning and professional development. On a personal note it has enabled me to see other staff in a different light. Connecting with colleagues and gaining an insight into their passions and expertise via blogs has been an unexpected bonus.

  2. I’m glad to hear your experiences have been so positive following George’s visit. Hopefully we can go down the same path here.

  3. tiffanymahon says:

    As an Executive Teacher at Melose High School, this year has been the first year that we have really successfully engaged with Facebook and Twitter to harness the true power of student engagement and genuine student leadership projects in our school community and the broader network cluster. The 2012 south central weston cluster RED campaign with its links to twitter and facebook has had an enourmous impact on our school culture, as well as developing our students as resilient, empowered and active community members. School communities need to embrace, model and harness the positive power of social media sites. This will ensure that our students understand they can be used to advocate for positive change, to learn about ourselves and others and to build positive, supportive and caring communities. The work we do online needs to mirror, engage and reinforce the culture we create offline in our schools so we can expand our range of influence in ever widening circles.

  4. Absolutely Tiffany! I’ve seen the positive impact that the RED campaign has had. What a wonderful, local example of the point that Geoorge was trying to make. We would love for you to share some of this experience with us and our readers. Thanks for your comment.

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