Motion Leadership: The Skinny on Becoming Change Savvy


This is actually a skinny book… Michael Fullan – the author of Motion Leadership: The Skinny on Becoming Change Savvy – is a Canadian expert in educational reform, and in this short book (A5 size and about 85 pages) he sets out the ‘skinny’ – the basics, the straight dope – if you like – on how to move people through the change required to improve learning within educational organisations. It’s a recent book – published in 2010 and was recommended to me by someone who should know.

If you have ever pondered the question of how to ‘move’ individuals, institutions, and whole systems forward you might be interested. Fullan has written the book as a precursor to an online product he is developing, but it’s designed to be “the skinny naked truth” on change including eight elements that he has identified. These are:

  • Change problems
  • Change itself
  • Connecting peers with purpose
  • Capacity building trumps judgementalism
  • Learning is the work
  • Transparency rules
  • Love, trust and resistance
  • Leadership for all

I’m interested in this book on a couple of levels. On one level, in our sector – the field of adult literacy and numeracy – we have seen incredible change over the last few years. Whether this change will now slow down or stabilize is anyone’s guess, but making people change is damn hard – as Fullan notes. Not all change is good change, but we don’t always have control over the changing tertiary landscape. So, the book is interesting from that perspective. From another perspective, I’m interested in the idea of the book… What’s the skinny on my business – ALEC? What’s the skinny on my training the NCALNE (Voc)? What’s the skinny on professional development, or teaching literacy and numeracy, or edtech?

At the expense of sounding reductionist, I think it’s it’s generally helpful for non-experts when experts can strip their content down to the naked unadorned facts – the “core unobscured essence of the matter” as Fullan says. This is one of our goals at ALEC, but we’ve never expressed it quite as eloquently.

The basic idea with the book and Fullan’s main thesis is that educational reform and change are something that you just “get into” and that a practice into theory model is the best way to go as it represents the real world of change – perhaps rather than an ivory tower academic approach. Don’t get me wrong, the theory is there, but it’s developed and informed by practical experience. And then refined. I quite like that as a model for literacy and numeracy professional development as well.

Another thing that I like is that Fullan identifies champions of change and tells their stories. As brief as they are, these illustrate the various points he’s trying to make. One example, included the changes set in place by Jamie Oliver with regards to the appalling food served in UK schools. Is there a Jamie Oliver of educational change in NZ? The idea would probably seem odd to the literacy and numeracy Establishment, but why not? Personalities sell change. Wouldn’t it be great to have a few champions of literacy and numeracy with the marketing savvy of Jamie Oliver or the personality of Steve Irwin…?

Fullan’s basic claim is that the skinny is about “simplexity” – something that he says is about this:

  • finding the smallest number of high-leverage, easy-to-understand actions that unleash stunningly powerful consequences.

Sounds like something that literacy and numeracy tutors should be doing… and in many cases are doing, with largely unheralded and perhaps not quite understood results. And if we’re not doing just that – identifying the smallest number of high-leverage, easy-to-understand actions that unleash stunningly powerful consequences in someone’s literacy and numeracy learning, then what are we doing…?

It was helpful to me to substitute “tutor” everytime I read the word leader and think of these in the context of LN teaching and training, and I’m not normally one for the one liners… but here they are any way.

  • You can’t wait for success (with learners), you have to kick-start it.
  • If you want to get anything done (in education), you have to combine assertiveness and humility.
  • The best leaders (tutors) make people (their learners) feel good about working on and making progress relative to a tough problem or set of circumstances (LN skill needs and demands).
  • Assessment for learning prevails in successful schools (PTEs, ITPs, and other training environments) so that teachers can tailor-make appropriate instruction to individual needs.

And this next one’s quite a good recipe for an approach to developing LN as well:

  • To get anywhere, you have to do something.
  • In doing something, you need to focus on developing skills.
  • Acquisition of skills increases clarity.
  • Clarity results in ownership.
  • Doing this together with others generates shared ownership.
  • Persist no matter what. Resilience is your best friend.

A great skinny little book… I feel quite inspired actually…

If you like the sound of this book you can click the image below to add it to your Amazon wish list, read more about it, or buy it.

What is the baseline knowledge for embedding literacy and numeracy?


Is it possible to outline a set of baseline skills and knowledge for embedding literacy and numeracy into vocational and other training? I think it is. My context here is New Zealand trades and vocational training, but I think that this applies in other contexts and countries as well.

I’m going to expand on this at a later stage, but for us in New Zealand delivering training at levels 1 to 3 on our curriculum framework implies that literacy and numeracy is embedded… this is just by definition of the fact that it’s low level training.

All trades and vocational trainers, tutors, teachers and others need a certain baseline of skills and knowledge to do this. These tutors,are, by and large, defined by the following characteristics.

  • Not academic
  • Suspicious of anything academic
  • Practical
  • Relational
  • Used to working with their hands

Tutors and trainers like this need professional development that is practical and responsive to what they already know. They are, after all, already subject experts in their own fields. They don’t need to be turned into literacy and numeracy rocket scientists.

They do need certain baseline skills and knowledge. Our friends at LiteracyNumeracyPro.com designed the simple info graphic illustrating this post to show what we see as the seven essential knowledge areas for tutors, trainers and others involved in embedding literacy and numeracy

This graphic does a great job of bringing together two different frameworks. One is the Three Knowings framework used by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) in their resources and materials. The other framework is our interpretation of the one used by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) in the design of unit standards and qualifications for professional development in the field of adult literacy and numeracy education (ALNE).

10 ways to improve your professional development and studies


Embarking on a new course of study or some kind of professional development can be a difficult and, at times, lonely experience. I’ve listed few things below that we’ve noticed over the last few years that seem to make a difference for us and our learners.

While our field is literacy and numeracy education, these assumptions and success criteria really apply to any kind of study or professional development. We’ve been delivering our training since the qualification (NCALNE) became available in 2007 and although there are always exceptions to the list below, we know that people who complete this qualification typically:

  1. Accept that learning new things means learning a new language. Every area of study or work has its own set of words and terminology. Your work does and so does the field of literacy and numeracy.
  2. Choose not to be intimidated: You will need to learn some new words and terms. And new concepts. For our learners, the unfamiliar language of education and bureaucracy can be intimating. Make a decision not to be intimidated. Again, just ask someone to explain.
  3. Assume that it’s not rocket science: Despite what you might think it’s probably not all that complicated. At least, it’s always good to assume that (unless it is in fact Rocket Science). If it seems hard there may be several things going on. One is that there may be times when you have quite a lot of things to think about. Don’t confuse this with complexity. Another thing is that academics sometimes don’t realize that you don’t care about all that detail and background. But, if it does sound too complicated you might need to ask your tutors and trainers to explain it again. Just ask.

  1. Complete the first assessment task on time. Mostly, our assessments are practical and project based. But there’s some reading and writing for you to do in task 1. This involves a certain level of commitment to the material and to the writing task. We tell people to ask for help if they need it and get on with it. Pretty much without fail, people who do get on and complete the first task within the time frame go on to complete the whole qualification.
  2. Have evidence of prior study at the same level. For us in NZ this is level 5. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it helps. Lots of our learners have completed units from the adult education and training domain at the same level. This is a huge success factor.
  3. Have at least 2 or 3 years background experience. Again, we’re in education but having some practical background experience that relates to what you want to study gives you confidence. For our purposes, there’s not enough time to teach someone how to be a trainer or teacher. We’re assuming they already know how to deliver training and education in their field. That means we can get on with the focus on literacy and numeracy training. Your background can help you.
  4. Involve others: Your study will go better if you can involve others around you. We think it’s a great idea to keep your boss or supervisor informed too. You may have colleagues that you can share information and collaborate with on some aspects.
  5. Try to get most of the work done in the first half of the year: Perhaps this is less true in an online world, or even in a commercial world, but we try to schedule most of our training towards the first half of the year. Don’t let assessment tasks drag on. Negotiate a timeframe and work towards it. The slide into Christmas happens really quickly.
  6. Commit to a study group: People who get together with others to study the course materials and work on course requirements generally have a better experience. This takes more time, but we notice the difference in work submitted.
  7. Be a pain the ass. It’s the squeaky wheel principle. Our students who ring us, email us, and text us with their questions and concerns generally do better.

What is the NCALNE (Voc)?


In case you don’t know already, the NCALNE (Voc) is an entry level professional qualification in adult literacy and numeracy education. The rather unwieldy acronym stands for:

  • National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace)

It’s a 40-credit National Certificate delivered by registered and accredited training providers in Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s primarily for trades and vocational trainers, tutors, and teachers. And those they work with.

Unit Standard 21204 (Develop adult learners’ literacy and numeracy skills within a training or education programme) is central to this course and makes up 30 of the total 40 credits. At ALEC we have embedded two additional units to make up the balance. These are Unit Standard 9685 (Write an analytical report) and Unit Standard 21196 (Design literacy skills development for an individual learner).

We’re working on an online Fast Track option that embeds the 10 credit unit standard 21198: Facilitate literacy skills development.

If you sign up for this training with ALEC or another provider you’ll cover a wide range of content areas and skills and that you will your ability to embed literacy and numeracy into your context.

But there are seven broad areas that you should cover. Each of these areas should relate to one assessment task and one element from 21204. They are:

  1. The New Zealand context.
  2. Māori literacy and numeracy.
  3. Mapping and task analysis: Knowing the demands.
  4. Diagnostic assessment: Knowing the learner.
  5. Embedding literacy and numeracy: Knowing what to do.
  6. Assessing learning progress.
  7. Evaluating embedded literacy and numeracy.

The plan is to start working on a Diploma in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education next.

Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness after the Digital Explosion


This book by by Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen, and Harry Lewis falls towards the glass is half empty side of the argument about the influence of technology on our lives. If you’re concerned about the negative effects of the new digital landscape then this book could be for you. The authors’ primary concern relates to a common theme in the media these days: personal control of information, privacy, and identity in a digital world.

Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion

Click the picture to buy the book

Here are some of the questions they are trying to answer… You should read this book if you find yourself asking the same questions…

  • Can you control who sees all that personal information about you?
  • Can email be truly confidential, when nothing seems to be private?
  • Shouldn’t the internet be censored the way radio and TV are?
  • Is it really a crime to download music for free?
  • When you use Google or Yahoo!, how do they decide which sites to show you?
  • Do you still have free speech in the digital world?
  • Do you have a voice in shaping government or corporate policies about any of this?

The basic idea is that information freedom is a very tricky business. Some of our fundamental assumptions about privacy, business, and identity are in the process of being shattered. The authors are computer scientists writing for a more general audience… and at times they succeed but I don’t find them as hopeful, accessible, or convincing as Grown Up Digital which I reviewed previously.

I do like the fact that they stress how technological changes and social changes reinforce one another. We often don’t see these changes as clearly as we should when we are caught up in the middle of them. In the end, the authors take a typical academic escape route and hedge their bets by stating that we don’t really know what’s going to happen or whether future changes to information control will be positive or negative.

Here’s an overview of the chapters for those who are interested:

  1. Digital explosion: Why is it happening and what is at stake?
  2. Naked in the sunight: Privacy lost, privacy abandoned
  3. Ghosts in the machine: Secrets and surprises of electronic documents
  4. Needles in the haystack: Google and other brokers in the bits bazaar
  5. Secret bits: How codes become unbreakable
  6. Balance toppled: Who owns the bits?
  7. You can’t say that on the internet: Guarding the frontiers of digital expression
  8. Bits in the air: Old metaphors, new technologies, and free speech
    Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion
    Click the picture to buy the book

10 reasons why we need higher level qualifications in adult literacy and numeracy education.


If you are in education you need to think about ways in which you can strengthen the literacy and numeracy skills of your learners. This is true if…

  • You are a teacher, a tutor, or  a trainer of some kind.
  • You own or work in an education business of some kind, even if you are not a teacher.
  • You design or develop materials that other people use for education and training.

It might also be true if you are just in business. Chances are that your business has an education aspect, even if you don’t think of yourself as an educator. After all, if we’re all in sales, we surely must also all be in education.

Education is about literacy and numeracy at it’s foundation. It’s about other things too, but your learners, clients, customers, workers, and others need to know very specific things in order to complete their tasks. If they lack the literacy and numeracy skills to understand what these tasks are, or they can’t read the instructions, or do the calculations then you’re in trouble.

The NZ evidence, buried as it is amongst all the paperwork, is that large chunks of the population don’t have adequate literacy and numeracy skills for life and work. The same is true in most OECD countries. In 2007, the first tier of professional qualifications for adult literacy and numeracy education were released. These qualifications, the National Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education or NCALNE for short professionalized trades, vocational, and other educators working to strengthen literacy and numeracy outcomes in New Zealand.

Now, it’s time to look beyond the entry level qualifications provided by the NCALNE and see what can be done to extend the skills of educators further.

At the moment we’re investigating what it would take to get the next thing up and running. This is the Diploma in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education – or DipALNE for short. This is a level 6, 120 credit national qualification. Our plan at the moment is to get it online for 2013. You can help us by answering 10 questions.

Here are our assumptions… Our reasons why we think we need this qualification:

  1. The qualification was designed by the NZQA in response to a request from the sector. In other words, educators and others in NZ asked for it.
  2. If we don’t deliver it and get some traction here, NZQA will most likely remove it from the qualifications register. This would be a shame.
  3. There are several thousand NCALNE graduates. They all need something to take them to the next level.
  4. The need for professional qualification for educators involved in strengthening literacy and numeracy has not decreased just because times are tight economically. In fact, it’s the opposite.
  5. Everyone in education needs to make it their job to teach the literacy and numeracy skills that underpin their particular training or field of expertise. This means literacy and numeracy education are everyone’s responsibility.
  6. This qualification has export potential. New Zealand has done the hard work in creating a fantastic infrastructure for literacy and numeracy. This includes these kinds of professional qualifications, the Learning Professions for Adult Literacy and Numeracy, and the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool. Let’s not drop the ball guys.
  7. The education sector, particularly the so called literacy and numeracy experts all need to step up their game. This means me too. Gaining higher level qualifications is one way to do this.
  8. Strengthening literacy and numeracy means higher quality outcomes for every other education sector regardless of whether government funding is there to support it or not. Howe else will we see growth in the STEM (Science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects, trades, and workforce unless very specific and contextualised literacy and numeracy skills are embedded into work and training in these areas.
  9. Improving literacy and numeracy skills benefits everyone. If I can train you to embed the literacy and numeracy skills that your workers or learners need into your workplace or training programme, you’ll actually be happier and so will those you work with. This is because the small gains that learners can make over time actually make a huge difference. This makes everyone happy. And productivity increases.
  10. Your own literacy and numeracy skills increase when you focus on developing the foundation learning skills of others. This is because you become more conscious of what is going on with your work or training and start thinking about your work with a literacy numeracy filter in place.

Help us out. If you haven’t already clicked the link above, take the survey.

How to increase your knowledge of Maori literacy in one easy read: Te Marae


This short book by Hiwi and Pat Tauroa is an excellent introduction and summary of what happens on the marae including the various stages that visitors are led through during the powhiri process. It also covers different kinds of marae and other aspects of Maori community life that often connect with the marae including the church (te whare karakia), the cemetery (te urupa), funerals (tangi), and weddings (marena).

Te Marae: A Guide to Customs and Protocol

 You can buy this book. Click the image to purchase 

I bought this because someone recommended it to me. I had asked for some follow up material after watching the TEC’s “Know the learner” DVD with the focus on Maori learning and teaching. The DVD covers the powhiri as a kind of model for educational processes and I wanted to do a bit more reading around this. If you are interested in learning more about any of these aspects of Maori culture then this book is an excellent introduction. The focus is more general than the DVD of course.

There is an introduction by Sir James Henare and then the basic flow of the book is a walk through of the various stages of the powhiri process. It’s not a dry academic treatment though. The writers draw on their own life experiences, Marae (Te Patunga) and stories to set the scene and provide a context for the book. Some of the complexities of Marae visits are covered, but by and large the material is easy to understand and pakeha-friendly. Some waiata are included and translated and these were interesting and heartwarming to read.

Obviously, there is no “one size fits all” approach and each marae and iwi is likely to have their own particular practices. However, this book is probably a good place to start if – like me – you are an interested, but mostly uninformed citizen…

Also, there is some nice detail around some of the specifics like saying grace before eating and the authors include some simple karakia. Such as this one:

E te Karaiti – O Lord,

Whakapaingia enei kai- Bless this food

Hei oranga mo o matou tinana – For the sustenance of our bodies,

Whangaia o matou wairua – Feed our souls

Ki te taro o te ora – With Thy spiritual food

Nau hoki nga mea katoa – For all things are from You

Amine – Amen

Te Marae: A Guide to Customs and Protocol

 You can buy this book. Click the image to purchase