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.

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 


You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto


Jaron Lanier is my new guru… He thinks that I’m not a gadget and this book – which is his first – is a rant against the negative effects of technology including the internet.

Lanier argues in You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto that it’s ultimately people that are meaningful, and that we are in danger of devaluing individuals, deadening creativity, endlessly rehashing past culture, risking weaker design in engineering and science, and reducing development in every sphere. Lanier is an American computer scientist, composer, visual artist, author, and pioneer of Virtual Reality.

Personally, I’ll read anything with the word “Manifesto” on the front, plus this book was given to me by a friend, but I was hooked after reading the front cover. I’ve reproduced the cover text below… probably contributing to and perpetuating the very issue that he’s confronting. But for the record:

It’s early in the twenty-first century, and that means that these words will mostly be read by nonpersons – automatons or numb mobs composed of people who are no longer acting as individuals.

The words will be minced into atomized search-engine keywords within industrial cloud computing facilities located in remote often secret locations around the world. The vast fanning out of the fates of these words will take place almost entirely in the lifeless world of pure information.

Real human eyes will read these words in only a tiny minority of the cases.

And yet it is you, the person, the rarity among my readers, I hope to reach.

The words in this book are written for people, not computers.

I want to say: You have to be somebody before you can share yourself

One of Lanier’s basic ideas is that we’re starting to experience something he calls “lock-in” – a process  whereby human affairs, which are becoming increasingly software driven, have become more subject to lock-in than in previous eras. His caution is that some of the ideas that have been locked in aren’t so bad, but others like the so-called web 2.0 are stinkers, so we ought to reject them while we still can. For example, he cites the notion of the electronic file as something that is now locked in… there were other ways of thinking about how to store information, but now were locked in to the idea of the file.

Another idea of his is that web 2.0 designs like Facebook and Wikipedia emphasize the crowd which means deemphasizing individual human beings in the design of society. He states that when you ask people not to be people, they revert back to bad mob-like behaviours. And certainly, many of us who participate in online discussions know what it’s like when the electronic crowd turns nasty.

He also provides a searing critique on the following issues:

  • The Singularity (google it if you don’t know…) and how it’s an unhelpful, faith-based apocalyptic idea with no basis in reality.
  • How technologies change people, e.g. by making people seem obsolete so that computers seem more advanced.
  • How the point of virtual reality machines should be to make the world more creative, expressive, empathetic and interesting. Not to escape it.
  • How the attribution of intelligence to machines, crowds of fragments, and others in the pantheon of what he calls “nerd deities” obscures more than it illuminates.
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.

Michael King’s Being Pakeha Now


Being Pakeha Now: Reflections and Recollections of a White Native

After reading Being Pakeha Now: Reflections and Recollections of a White Native I found it quite amazing that up until a few years ago I had no real conception of who Michael King is – or rather was, given his unexpected and rather untimely death in a freak motoring accident in March 2004. Apparently, his car veered of a straight road on SH 2 in the Waikato, hit a tree and caught fire. Speed wasn’t a contributing factor so the accident is rather mysterious. In any case, this book, Being Pakeha Now is arguably King’s most significant work.

Again, this is a book I think everyone should read and I’ve already bought and given away one extra copy… You should read it because the issue that King is exploring is of central importance to 21st Century New Zealand: What does it mean to be a non-Maori New Zealander? There are other worldview-ish questions that connect with this. Questions that perhaps lurk beneath our ideas

King is in no way trying to displace Maori identities and history. Quite the opposite… In fact, if there was ever a kind of intellectual Sir Edmond Hillary it would be Michael King. He has endured controversy and earned praise from both Maori and Pakeha and climbed some rather formidable mountains in his efforts to encourage the recording and writing down of accurate Maori histories. King’s basic here can be captured in the following quote which is reproduced on the cover of the book:

  • ‘Pakeha New Zealanders who are committed to this land and its people are no less “indigenous” than Maori.’

 King recognises and respects the place of Maori in New Zealand, and argues that Pakeha too belong inescapably to this country and in fact have no other. They (we) have become a second indigenous culture, that of Pakeha New Zealanders.

This is not some philosophical treatise or turgid history. It’s a personal memoir in which King uses his own life’s Journey to explore this idea of what it means to be Pakeha now. It’s also as close as we’ll ever get to an autobiography. Basically, it’s the story of being born into an Irish Catholic family and growing up around Paremata and later Auckland. It’s also the story of a childhood, youth, and adulthood filled with mentors and heroes and I find myself embarassed at how few of these famous people I really know anything about. At times funny and tragic, it’s a history of New Zealand that’s accessible and inclusive…

There’s lots of a great content, but here are a couple of favourite quotes I earmarked:

  • ‘The study of history has bequeathed me with another conviction, one that is somewhat at variance with the manner in which my early education – particularly my religious education – was carried out. It is the belief that truth must be sought through the media of unfettered investigation and open disputation according to the model of the Open Society as characterised by Carl Popper among others (‘a society whose members may openly criticise the institutions and the structures of power without fear of reprisal; where education is distinct from propaganda; where freedoms of thought, action and belief are allowed the greatest possible extent’).
  • ‘For me, then, to be Pakeha on the cusp of the twenty-first century is not to be European; it is not to be an alien or a stranger in my own country. It is to be a non-Maori New Zealander who is aware of and proud of my antecendents, but who  identifies as intimately with this land, as intensively and as strongly, as anybody Maori. It is to be, as I have already argued, another kind of indigenous New Zealander.’