CLRI Annual Report 2018

The Centre for Learning, Research & Innovation (CLRI) is a joint venture between The Geelong College, Deakin University and The Geelong College Foundation.

The Centre aims to provide people with the ability to affect beneficial change within their schools, institutions and organisations. We engage in research projects, policy development and create professional learning opportunities, by recognising learning as an active, dynamic behaviour that emerges from interactions between the human brain and the social world.

Our 2018 Annual Report is now available and will be my last as Director before starting as Deputy Principal at Mentone Grammar in the new year.

Learn about what we accomplished in 2018 and our plans for the future.

CLRI Annual Report 2017

The Centre for Learning, Research & Innovation (CLRI) is a joint venture between The Geelong College, Deakin University and The Geelong College Foundation.

The Centre aims to provide people with the ability to affect beneficial change within their schools, institutions and organisations. We engage in research projects and create professional development opportunities, by recognising learning as an active, dynamic behaviour that emerges from interactions between the human brain and the social world.

Our 2017 Annual Report is now available.

Learn about what we accomplished in 2017 and our plans for the future.

Centre for Learning, Research & Innovation


Our Centre for Learning, Research & Innovation has been in operation now for two years.

The Centre is a joint venture between The Geelong College, Deakin University and The Geelong College Foundation. It serves students, parents, teachers and the broader community.

The Centre is not run from a single building – it operates at the point of need. It is a hub of ideas that might be housed in the Creative Arts department, the school up the road, or a local business – it’s a core group of thinking, investigating people. We engage in research projects and create professional development opportunities, by recognising learning as an active, dynamic behaviour that emerges from interactions between the human brain and the social world. We are committed to understanding the science of learning and the art of teaching.

We have just released our 2015 Annual Report to coincide with the launch of our new website. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Building Prosthetic Hands

In July, I took some students to Swinburne University of Technology to be part of the Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria Conference.

A group of six students ranging from Year five through to Year eleven worked together and built a 3D printer from its basic components and printed and assembled working prosthetic hands. These hands, designed as part of the E-Nable open source project that has brought together engineers, artists, makers, occupational therapists, prosthetists, garage tinkerers, designers and many others from all over the world, can be printed and assembled for less than $50.

Real-world projects like this enable students to become deep, independent thinkers, who take responsibility for their own learning and solve problems that have a real outcome as they experience first-hand what it is like to be a designer, a mathematician or an engineer. Our students are empowered to be the creators and inventors of tomorrow’s technology by having the mindset that nothing is impossible and that you can create whatever you imagine. Whilst the designs of the hands are downloadable the deep learning is during assembly, the understanding of an interconnected system, the engineering and in the linear and parametric scaling to ensure hands are printed to the correct size.  It made the local paper – SCT August 20th 2015

Two prosthetic hands have now been completed as our students go about identifying a potential donor so their work can go to someone in need.

DLTV Ignite – Permission to Innovate

I had the opportunity to be part of the Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria Fringe Festival over the past two days. On the Friday I had students from Year 5 through to Year 11 showcasing their 3D printing knowledge by assembling a 3D printer, printing and the constructing a working prosthetic limb and running a series of mini-workshops for teachers using various CAD packages and resources. On the Saturday I gave an Ignite talk titled ‘Permission to Innovate.’ Find notes/slides below.

Here’s the thing.
Schools are in the learning business, yet rarely define learning, therefore rarely define their business.  Schools are also connected places, where ‘everything affects everything’ yet they rarely think systemically.  So for schools to be effective they must think systemically and also design connected learning experiences that are driven by a common definition of learning.
And central to these learning experiences is the curriculum itself.

The value of any curriculum however is as a framework for creating experiences that are personally meaningful, real, relevant and authentic. A curriculum is not picking something up off the shelf and rigidly enforcing and imposing it on kids. A valuable curriculum doesn’t impose time limitations, age restrictions or subject barriers on learning but rather values the perspective of the student and has as its fundamental characteristics; entrepreneurship, creativity, curiosity, decision making and independence.

The statement “but we have a curriculum to cover” doesn’t even make sense in a rapidly changing world where we can learn anything at any time, from anywhere and from anyone at any pace and to any depth. In grappling with this, a diverse group of leaders and staff from our College drew the conclusion that for us to be effective moving forward we must pro-actively and collectively design a more connected learning system driven by a shared language of what we value in learning.  Drawing widely on national and international research, with a future focus that embraces aspects of experiential and constructivist learning philosophies, we designed a comprehensive framework for learning titled our Vision for Learning. This broad framework defines learning not in terms of discreet subjects, specifics or narrow measures, but in terms of seven conceptual dimensions: Identity, Creativity, Thinking, Communicating, Contributing, Creating and Enterprising.

Co-constructed over a period of twelve months, we talked about wanting to be an “innovative” community of learners and how sometimes negative connotations go with the term “innovation” – schools operate on trust and relationships, they have to,  but when we talk about innovation we often and unintentionally create a divide by creating a perception of the need to fix a perceived deficit. And sometimes this is true.  Absolutely and without a doubt. But because schools are built on trust and relationships, people need to know that innovation isn’t about devaluating anyone’s work. Innovation isn’t necessarily a deficit statement. Innovation can simply refer to the introduction of something new – an idea, product, teaching approach or in creating more effective processes to create a new dimension of performance. Certainly, innovation is contextual, and what represents innovative thought and practice for one person might not necessarily be innovative for another. Being innovative however requires us to step outside of the normal and suspend our biases. Suspending our biases allows us to develop a capacity to disassociate from the way things have always been done. By developing this capacity we give ourselves permission to innovate.

At the official launch of our Vision for Learning it was important to drive home this message so each staff member received a “permission to innovate” card which they were asked to keep with them at all times when developing learning experiences for kids. This card reads, “This card entitles me to try something new. If it doesn’t work as well as I wanted I will be free of criticism for my efforts. I’ll continue to pursue new ways to help my students be successful.

There is no one formula for great teaching and that’s what makes our profession such a rewarding one. Just like learning is a deeply personal endeavour – so is teaching. We can absolutely pause, momentarily, reflect and be proud of what we have achieved and where we have come from. However, just as we want our students to improve, it is a moral imperative for even the best teachers to continue to strive to be better and for the best leaders to create a safe environment where innovation can flourish. So by developing this shared vision for the future of learning at our College, it ensures a full alignment in purpose and language and changes the paradigm of curriculum work from a cycle of documentation to a process for focused collaborative review and improvement. Most importantly, and supporting our shift towards an empowered and innovative learning culture, it brings teachers and students together around a focal point for collaboration and gives each and every staff member permission to innovate.

Out of Our Minds

“Our ideas can enslave or liberate us. Some people never do make the transition and remain resident in the old world view; their ideological comfort zone.” – Sir Ken

Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative is a book that, for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed. Sir Ken gives a very broad overview of a changing world, a broken education system, shares anecdotes that sometimes relate to the points that he is trying to make and gives the reader a general framework for being a creative leader.

He defines common misconceptions about creativity; namely that ‘creativity’ as it is currently understood actually consists of:

  • Imagination – the source of creativity. The ability to bring to mind things that are not present in our senses.
  • Creativity – the process of having original ideas. Creativity is applied Imagination.
  • Innovation – the process of putting new ideas into practice. Innovation is applied Creativity.

Sir Ken asks us to challenge the many things that we take for granted,

“Like the medieval astronomer we continue to believe in the assumptions of mass education, despite all the evidence that the system is failing so many people within it.” – Sir Ken

and speaks about cultural aversions to change and why resistance to change is only natural.

After attending the Creative Innovation 2011 conference recently, I now know that many of the speakers where actually directly quoting this book as the book – and this is what is worrying me.

In 1780, Jacques Rousseau published Emile, in which he argued for a new approach to education that was based on play, games, pleasure and personal interests. For the next 200+ years their have been many who have argued for a more playful and creative education system, those such as Froebel, Montessori, Steiner, OrffDewey and Kohn, and yet despite their efforts, they have gone largely ignored. But in the fast-changing world of the 21st century, every business, government official and education leader wants a quick dose of creativity and innovation and will pay whatever it takes to say they have done the latest ‘Sir Ken’ workshop, and this in turn ticks the necessary innovation box. But can you actually ‘teach’ creativity? Granted, a framework can be introduced to encourage ‘creative’ thinking and a ‘creative’ culture and work environment (think Google), but in an age of the quick-fix workshop, how many of these organizations are willing to invest in long-term strategies to really drive systemic change toward a more creative and innovative environment?

Take the time to read this review of Out of Our Minds on Amazon – Is Creativity the New Snake Oil?

Is Creativity the New Snake Oil?

Thinking for Our Future

The Creative Innovation conference finished on Friday with an incredible program of speakers on the day including Ray Kurzweil, Edward Debono, Rufus Black, Paddy Miller, Brendan Boyle & Tan Le

From an education perspective, the conference was a great chance to meet and network with people from business, industry, philanthropy and to talk to many successful entrepreneurs. Kurzweil stated in his talk that, “most people in developed countries are doing jobs that did not exist when they were born.” and this was clearly supported with some of the job titles of the people that I met throughout the conference – titles such as, Innovation Architect, Chief Fulfiller of Needs, Life Coach, Inventiologist, Changemaker, Bubbleologist, Bubbleosopher, Chief Ideas Officer, Thinking Strategist etc.

Education is too insular – we need to get out more and see what is happening in the world, to meet people with different backgrounds and interests, to see what is happening in business and industry – this allows for cross-sector collaboration and pollination. Many of the people I met are very eager to work with people in education, but just need an entry point. 

My immediate actions:

The purchase of an emotiv EPOC headset (with the SDK) to see how Quantum Victoria can use brain-machine interface and neuro-technology to re-energize interest in science among secondary school students.

Research Brendan Boyle’s d.School at Stanford University. Brendan was a real class-act and very generous with his time. He spoke at length about the principles of design thinking and the importance of play. The philosophy of making play part of the process to increase creativity and innovation was supported by the idea that play should involve 1.Role Play 2. The Encouragement of Ridiculous – the ebb and flow of ideas 3. Thinking with your hands. He shared many fun examples of students using design thinking in whimsical ways.

The Institute of Design at Stanford have made available all their material on design thinking and creative processes available for anyone to use – definitely something to investigate further.

And finally, Paddy Miller blew me away with his work on creating an ecosystem for innovation – definitely check out his book the Innovation Architect when it becomes available.

Super-connected world – Marvel or Myth?

The other deep conversation that I had the pleasure of sitting in on yesterday at Creative Innovation was “Super-connected world – Marvel or Myth?” with Ray Kurzweil, Daniel Dennett & Tan Le.

According to Ray Kurzweil, in the 21st Century we won’t experience one hundred years of progress—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). We are fast-approaching a radically different future in which we merge with our machines, overcome our mortality to live indefinitely, and become billions of times more intelligent. Ray spoke about his Law of Accelerating Returns, and having just finished his book The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, I was fascinated to hear the dialogue between Dennett, who seems to be almost a technological pessimist (philosophy whilst interesting, can sometimes be used as an excuse for procrastination whilst contemplating the intricacies of whatever you have thought about doing…), and Kurzweil, a man who has 19 honorary doctorates and a unwavering belief in his vision of the future.

The dialogue and debate was fascinating. Whether you believe Kurzweil’s prediction that in the year 2029 we will have computers that support human level intelligence, a moment in time he coins the technological singularity – the claims can not be dismissed outright. Tan Le showed that Kurzweil’s predictions are indeed plausible, by talking at length about her company emotiv, a company doing cutting-edge research into brain-machine interfaces. For anyone who thinks that Ray Kurzweil’s predictions are not within the realms of possibility, consider the emotiv EPOC (combined with the SDK) headset, based on the latest developments in neurotechnology, that allows you to control a computer with your thoughts alone – and it costs less than $300! 

If I was to be critical of this deep conversation, it would be only in the fact that the brilliant Tan Le almost got drowned out of the conversation between two men using their intellects in a battle of ego and wit. When Tan did get a chance to speak it was with knowledge and passion. Catch the recording of her TEDGlobal talk in 2010.

When brain-machine interfaces become mainstream, we might ask: What is the difference between a human brain enhanced a million fold by technology opposed to a unenhanced brain? The moral and ethical implication of human-machine hybrids was discussed at length with identity, consciousness and what it means to be a human all brought into question.

Is this the death of education & the dawn of learning?

“You can’t be too ambitious with your expectations of children” – Stephen Heppell

“Play is part of the process – play isn’t for recess and then you get back to work.” -Brendan Boyle

I am currently attending the Creative Innovation conference and had the pleasure of sitting in on a Deep Conversation with Professor Stephen Heppell, Associate Professor Brendan Boyle and the Chancellor of LaTrobe University, Professor Adrienne Clark.

Stephen Heppell is perhaps Europe’s leading online education expert, the CEO of and is one of the global leaders in learning space design. The conversational style of Heppell is enchanting, fusing personal anecdotes with humour – he kicked things off by sharing a story of when he was an undergraduate with his wife, when they first met Edward DeBono. This story was a reflection on the change he has witnessed since he was in University to the present day. To get a first-class honors degree in Stephen’s time, you had to produce a surprising, astonishing paper – now to get a first-class honors degree you have to produce the least surprising paper – for me, this touched on a number of issues such as academic inflation or the worth of a post-graduate degree, especially in education, peer review, open access versus pay-walls and the constant nature of accelerating change – but that is another post in itself.

Reflecting on projects he has been part of in education over the last twenty years or so, Heppell can’t remember one that he was scared of – and he definitely didn’t stop because of roadblocks.  In fact he stated, “If the bureaucracy try to stop you, it is likely to succeed.” Many early projects that Heppell was involved with were funded not by education, but by industries. I, personally, would like to see more of this. Many high-profile bloggers and leading educationalists would argue that this is a bad thing, but I don’t think so. If schools and education systems around the world are facing budget cuts, where does the funding come from? – granted this does lead into the privatization debate…

Heppell’s main points:

  • Have high expectations of students. 
  • Why does their have to be an age when you are supposed to be able to do something? Why should age be such a factor in education? 
  • Where is the research that says kids learn best when kids are grouped according to age? 
  • The madness of ringing a bell and expecting all kids to be hungry at the same time is absurd – timetabling needs radical rethinking. 
  • Kids, no matter what age or background, are capable of amazing things. 
  • Allow kids to take their shoes off (Seriously – A great deal of research has led Heppell to believe that young boys store their testosterone in their shoes) 
  • Instill a sense of play in your learning community 

A story was shared about a group of bankers in a pub on the Thames on their hands and knees playing with some concrete materials that Stephen had bought with him – a sense of inherent playfulness is part of what it means to be human.

Play, has long been identified as an integral part of childhood development but many educators and parents differentiate between a time for play and a time for learning without seeing the vital connection between the two. Too often, proponents of a more playful environment are shot down by traditionalists that argue that for learning to be rigorous; it should be something that is akin to a chore. Something that is hard work – Dean Groom would tell them to get over it – learning can and should be fun and enjoyable. The moment you invite children to see the world in a playful way, it connects pleasurable emotions to learning, and this is what the back to basics movement should be all about.

Universities and education departments move too slowly – Heppell states, “it’s a pedagogical Egypt out there” – the things we know work well, we can’t make policies for. But it doesn’t matter, the real change is happening in the classrooms.

Brendan Boyle was also super-impressive in talking about design thinking. Brendan is a Partner at IDEO; co-author of The Klutz Book of Inventions; has invented & licensed more than 150 consumer products; Associate Professor at Stanford University’s d. School and Board Member National Institute for Play.

Brendan spoke at length about the importance of multi-disciplinary teams and discovering your creative confidence. In supporting the notion of multi-disciplinary teams, Brendan stated that “I shaped people don’t play well with others. T shaped people have both breadth and depth.” To me, this was the highlight, because if you think about it a majority of important discoveries now and in the future, will be made in the interstices between disciplines – we have almost gone full circle from the great polymath’s of Newton and Da Vinci, to very specific specialization, and now back to the importance of having a breadth of cross-disciplinary knowledge.

Brendan also spoke about the idea of reverse mentoring – having students be a teacher’s mentor – a big shift in mindset for many.

A great start to the conference.

*UpdateA graphic view of the Deep Conversation

Creative Innovation 2011

I have recently been the recipient of a scholarship to attend Creative Innovation 2011. From the media release,

Ten emerging leaders and innovators across Australia have been selected as scholarship winners from an enormous pool of talented applicants. They will attend Creative Innovation 2011 and present their innovation for the future to some of the biggest business thinkers in the world including legendary Dr. Edward de Bono, Daniel Dennett, Stephen Heppell and one of the USA’s top ten entrepreneurs and inventors Raymond Kurzweil.

Winners will also be able to rub shoulders with over 35 leading innovators and leaders and delegates from an enormous range of industries, government and business

The main theme for Creative Innovation 2011 is The challenges and opportunities of a super-connected world. To register your place for this amazing event held in Melbourne from November 16th-18th please visit:

Hope to see you there.