Archive for the ‘*Moments’ Category

Political rebelliousness: what we can learn

I’ve finished my Masters this semester. Done. Full stop. Phew. I had one subject to complete this semester and I followed on from last semester and did Education for Social Change 2. The key text for the subject was Michael Newman’s Teaching Defiance (2006). Michael’s inspiration for writing the book was the need to do something about the state of the world, in particular, the Iraq War and the so-called “coalition of the willing” – remember that catch cry? How can we forget!

Now I’m inspired to write about a current event, the asylum seekers onboard the Oceanic Viking. This event is a prime example of the subject’s content.

Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers Launch Hunger Strike

Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers Launch Hunger Strike. October 15, 2009 - Photo by Oscar Siagian/Getty Images AsiaPac

In the flavour of Newman’s book, a text for the activist teacher, the story of the asylum seekers and refugees onboard the Oceanic Viking are a clear and poetic case of resistance. Amongst the rhetoric of the Rudd government, the fear mongering of the Opposition, and the general malaise of the media circling once more like vultures around yet another sensational account of boat people, there’s some definitive action. Action taken by the asylum seekers themselves. A global show of resistance, rebelling against what seems for so many a hopeless, desperate and uncontrollable situation. We extend our sympathy, our pity, our dismay, but beyond that we really don’t know how these people feel, but can only imagine.

Who better to resist the unpalatable than those who directly face it? Newman (2006, pp. 21-23) describes political rebelliousness through the famous story of Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. It was this sole and simple act of rebelliousness that turned the civil rights movement around. Rosa’s story became the symbol of the movement, a powerful story through which to engage the common person enough to propel them into action.

Her action was premised on her personal story, her years as a quiet and determined activist, her informed beliefs, her friendships, and her experience at Highlander [where she attended a workshop on education for social change, some weeks prior to her action on the bus] (p. 23).

The asylum seekers have refused to disembark from the Oceanic Viking, not wanting to reside in an Indonesian detention centre (regardless of it being funded by Australia). This simple act of refusal has shown that asylum seekers need not be pawns in this political game of “border protection”, nor need they be slaves to the smugglers that bring them to our waters. They are humans. They are taking back control of their situation. They are saying enough is enough. They want to be listened to. They want change in these convoluted processes. They are tired of all of this, of their unfortunate circumstances that bring them here in the first place. They want a new life and they want it now.

What this act has done is expose the cracks in the armour of the Australian government’s border protection approach, particularly the time taken to process refugees and asylum seekers. It has uncovered the ludicrous bureaucracy that asylum seekers have to contend with and do so in little more than concrete blocks surrounded by barbed wire fencing. It exposes the fact that processing can be done in a timely manner – for all – not simply a select few (as in this case, where 20 odd refugees have since agreed to disembark in order to be processed). Surely this means the Australian govt can no longer hide behind rhetoric and must extend this approach to others still in detention on Australian soil and on neighbouring islands such as Christmas Is.

But it takes more than this one act of protest by the asylum seekers for this to happen. Newman believes that such an act can extend to an uprising especially if the coordinated effort is focused, and the momentum continues forward. How can we capitalise on this now to achieve better outcomes for asylum seekers now and into the future? In recounting Ghandi’s acts of rebellion-come-revolution, Newman says that what is “important above all else [is] to adopt a stance of dynamic, continuous, and generative rebelliousness” (2006, p. 37). Others now have a story to tell and retell about the Sri Lankan refugees and asylum seekers who refused detention. Perhaps the journey now begins here.

References and relevant links

ABC, 2009, Asylum seekers disembark Oceanic Viking, AM online, 14 Nov 2009, viewed 15 November 2009,

Allard, T. 2009, Sri Lankan asylum seekers ‘refuse to leave boat’, 28 October 2009, viewed 15 November 2009,

Newman, M. 2006, Teaching Defiance, Josey-Bass, San Francisco CA.

Zimbio, 2009, Sri Lankan Asylum seekers Launch Hunger Strike, Zimbio, viewed 15 November 2009,


a paradox in a thousand words or more


This via Digg.


The Educational Point of View: The teachable moment

It is an educational practitioner’s role (I argue) to engage with social media, to look beyond the surface layers of services like Youtube and get beneath it, to create accounts and subscribe to new content feeds, to favorite and comment and connect, and to realise the deeper layers of what is available in social media collections, and to help identify quality information and resources and help it to emerge and rise above other content. Further, if by chance that teacher notices something missing, or something in need of correction, to see that need as an opportunity for them to create the additional or corrective media and add it back into the social media so that it can play its role in that wider collective context. Its “teachable moment”.

The Educational Point of View « Learn Online

I reckon Leigh’s hit the nail on the head here. And the contested role of the teacher as facilitator is all the more apparent. If I look to bell hooks’s work with popular culture artifacts, this is another demonstration of using social media to generate ‘teachable moments’. Mitra’s work is also a good example – a social experiment contesting the role/need of the classroom as a ‘prerequisite’ for learning.

Our learning, as with our teaching is iterative, messy, frustrating, serendipitous and we often fight to control it so as to make it neat and tidy (as we’ve been expected to do), especially in conventional educational contexts. This is why I like the notion of ‘hot action’ that David Beckett (1995, 2001) writes about – it acknowledges the work done ‘on the fly’ with a confidence and a grasp of knowledge that enables someone to push forward to pick up a new skill, strategy or process, whatever it might be. It validates what people develop, understand and learn ‘in action’, whilst working, living, playing – whatever it is that makes up our day (although Beckett talks about the workplace as the context for ‘hot action’).

There’s also the acknowledgment of the body and bodily understanding in Beckett’s notion (not a new thing if you look at work by Merleau-Ponty for example). This isn’t about ‘muscle memory’, repetitive actions refining practical skills, it is more about how our bodies carry and dispense social cues and facets of power (see Foucault’s Power/Knowledge and work by McLaren (1986) and Turner (1982) on the body and ritual for example). This is how we BE, our Self within a social context loaded with power, social politics – the body politic, ‘regimes of truth’ (again, see Foucault). We don’t just teach, we are the embodiment of teaching, likewise a student, a mother, a singer, a carpenter. We don’t simply take on the role – we BE, through our veins, our eyes, our voice, our skeleton.

And so to Leigh’s final paragraph:

I am beginning to let go of the idea that the education sector will ever make an impact on the development of social media for education and that either something else will fill that opportunity, or that darker elements such marketing and shallow entertainment will take advantage of the illiteracy and ignorance that the education sector permitted to exist. This is no reflection on the people at Orange by the way. Its just that after 5 years of doing this, I can’t see anywhere near the level of change in the educational mindset, and the wider society to that measure, that I thought should have taken place by now. Others more senior and more experienced than I assure me that a significant change is happening, but that the education sector can only respond when those changes are prevalent throughout society, rather than be the one to make the change or prepare a society for the change. And that is a fact that I am beginning to see the fairness of.

I don’t for a second believe that “the education sector” should be waiting until the “greater society” shows prevalent change – we ARE the greater society aren’t we? How can we dissect society in this way? Is change about taking turns? What makes education sit outside the greater society? Since when do we need some sort of permission to “respond when those changes are prevalent”? Who will tell us when that happens?

Stick to your guns Leigh – the proof is in the practice. Surely a critical mass of ‘teachable moments’ must at some point amount to a revolution?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. –Margaret Mead

Beckett, D. (2001) ‘Hot Action’ At Work: Understanding ‘Understanding’ Differently, in T. Fenwick (ed.) Socio-Cultural Perspectives on Learning Through Work. New Directions for Adult and Community Education Series. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Beckett, D. (1995) Adult Education as Professional Practice. PhD thesis.

McLaren, P. (1986) Schooling as a Ritual Performance. Taylor & Francis.

Turner, V. (1982) From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. PAJ Publications.

Lifelong learning as calm learning?

I had a fabulous weekend in Bowral back in the last weekend of May, attending a Calmbirth workshop with my husband. Consequently, our first bub is now due in a couple of – ahem – days! 🙂

a labour of love

This is one reason I haven’t posted in a long while – too much going on and my brain has become more cottony than I had first anticipated! 🙂

Anyway, I’m moved to write following this amazing weekend experience as I see some links to lifelong learning, a phrase that seems to have dropped out of circulation of late (for whatever reason). Let’s first revisit the phrase and then I’ll draw some connections from the Calmbirth workshop itself. In essence, this is an ‘appreciative exploration’ of some thoughts really!

Lifelong learning, particularly as espoused by the OECD, champions the idea of learning for holistic personal, professional and workforce development, which occurs in various learning settings, informal and formal. Closer to home, DEST (now DEEWR) exercises a policy they claim is based on the OECD assumptions:

The lifelong learning policy agenda is built on assumptions about the importance of skills in the new economy. Almost all industrial sectors are increasingly ‘knowledge-based’ and economic returns are obtained from a range of ‘intangible’ inputs, one of which is workers’ skills. Participation in education and training is increasing and economic rewards are flowing to people with high skills…

…which in fact draws a parallel between productivity and further education, and extends further to lifelong learning and the ‘whole person’, especially where the VET sector is concerned. However, in today’s economic rationalist world we are not seeing this in its entirety. We are contending with the worker-learner and have yet to move to the whole person, in reality.

So how does this thinking link to what I experienced as ‘calm birth’ then? Well, from my view it means starting with the person, rather than the system in which the person likely operates. in essence it’s redefining what we have assumed to be learner centred approaches to teaching and learning. Still, we seem to take this as meaning providing options TO the learner to support and enhance their learning; rather, we should take the learner-at-the-centre approach and start there with their networks, their predispositions, their experiences, and so on. We require more discussion around the apparent preoccupation on separating ‘the system’ from the users/producers/agents (see for example, Mejias 2005).

person vs system

Thus, the science behind Calmbirth (as laid out in the workshop booklet and the various parents’ stories, where mums especially are co-teachers), contends with the human design, participatory methods, holistic therapies and healing work, beliefs and attitudes (e.g. Errington, 2004), cultural values and awareness, as well as the health sciences of midwifery and obstetrics.

So what is out there in terms of calm learning practices? How can we progress this to lifelong learning status? For example, Calm Kids, Smart Kids uses

…a mixture of:

  • Physical exercises proven to reduce hyperactivity & increase brain functioning and integration
  • Emotional stress release to help reduce anger and frustration, improve communication and increase self esteem
  • Unique Nutrition Plan identifies allergies and deficiencies specifically for your child.

What is of some interest here is the links made to factors that influence children’s ability to learning and grow, as discussed also in the Calmbirth workshop and booklet, particularly a stressful pregnancy, a traumatic birth, and medications and operations, as well as accidents, family trauma, and allergic reactions. As Peter Jackson stated in the Calmbirth workshop, ‘it all begins in the womb’. Check out Lyn Schaverien’s work on developmental learning (biological aspects of learning) too.

We may also draw links to appreciative inquiry (see also Cooperrider, et al, 2008) and inquiry-based learning which champions the inherent (and essentially positive) motivations of the learner from within. For me this also conjures links with schooling approaches such as the Montessori movement. We could effectively read open learning into this too. These approaches tend to focus on the learner’s self-guided interests, reminding me of a quote by Freire that champions the learner as teacher (as ‘learning by teaching’):

The teacher… is taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught, also teach.

I understand that I’m touching on a lot of potentially disparate areas of education here, but I think it’s worth noting that whilst we delve into supposedly ‘new’ thinking around learning and teaching, much has been developed in earlier times that remain credible and applicable today – in fact, possibly more so than they did in the past. The time for elements of schooling and education is ripe for change but not always to new and original ideas, but back to ideas that are now seen as befitting our current contexts.

Where can learning go from here? How do we continue to facilitate learning in ways that are relevant to our times? These are some loose connections which I hope to think more deeply about in coming months. I also see connections to networked learning here too, a draft essay of which I will post shortly (this essay picks up on action learning, ‘hot action’, and other action research frameworks that I’ve related to an investigation into VET pedagogy and practice).


Errington, E. (2004) The impact of teacher beliefs on flexible learning innovation: some practices and possibilities for academic developers, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 41(1), 39-47.

Cooperrider, D, Whitney, D & Stavros, J (2008), Apreciative Inquiry Handbook: For Leaders of Change (2nd Ed), Crown Custom Publishing Inc: Brunswick OH.

Where's Wally? The crowded picture

Most of us have heard of ‘Where’s Wally‘ right? I used to love the ‘great picture hunts’ and the after-school cartoon!

Where's Wally - Entertainment Rights

image: Entertainment Rights

Well, ‘where’s Marg’ applies equally well, as I haven’t blogged since end of April! 🙂 Time just evaporates doesn’t it??

There are many reasons for this which altogether looks and feels like a ‘where’s Wally’ crowded picture! I’ve been active elsewhere that has left me with little time to blog – I’ve only just this week caught up on my blog feeds from other blogs!

I’m co-preparing an action research, action learning conference through ALARA (of which I’m a member), in partnership with CIT’s Centre for Education Excellence, as well as (slowly) working through my masters units, some thoughts of which I’ve posted on my ALARA blog in recent times. I’ve also kept some conversation going regarding the conference via my ALARA blog too. More information regarding the conference will be forthcoming shortly, but if you’re keen to attend, keep September 11th and 12th free in your diaries!

Of course, those of you who have been following my other news now know that the birth of my first bub is imminent! Some pics are here (although some are hidden due to ‘belly-cam’ shyness on my part!)… not long to go now, and as a consequence, you can imagine I’ve been preparing for leave at work, which is in itself a major process (certainly a major ‘unhooking’ process for me particularly)!

The ‘nesting’ syndrome has also hit, and we’ve been renovating as well – we certainly made the most of the long weekend! We’re recording our progress here.

Back to work then, and we’ve been supporting the submissions and successful recipients of the E-learning Innovations funding available this year through the Framework and have 7 projects based at CIT as a result. With us looking down the barrel of the second half of 2008 already, these projects will be our main focus along with supplementary PD activities and the like to ensure the projects are successfully completed by early December!

I’m developing a post on the notion of ‘calm learning’, based on my recent experiences of a wonderful weekend-long workshop on calmbirth, in Bowral NSW. This triggered much in me (for obvious reasons outlined above) and I saw some interesting connections between birthing, conscious parenting and engagement with learning. Stay tuned on that!

Thank you to those who have wished me luck and showed your support for the impending birth and I hope to introduce you to the latest addition sometime around the end of July!! 🙂