What’s the problem? Technology

The impact of technology and the accelerating technological change is one of the themes that often comes up in discussions about why we face literacy and numeracy problems in the 21st century.

The relentless march of technology and increasing technological complexity mean that the demands of work and life have changed significantly in recent years compared to previous generations.

Adult learners today face literacy and numeracy demands today that simply did not exist before. Or at least they did not exist in the same way due to the increasing integration of computers, mobile devices, and the internet in our daily lives and work.

This change is highly visible and means that we all need to develop new “literacies” including digital literacy in order to keep learning and address gaps that could emerge between the “technologically” rich and poor.

Your learners are likely to be at a disadvantage if they can’t access online resources and services for work or daily life.

Some questions to think about

Let’s pause for a few moments. The questions below are not assessed, but thinking about your answers to them will help you with the assessment task.

  1. What impact has technology had on your trade or industry?
  2. What about the impact on how you teach or assess?
  3. What can you do to help encourage digital literacy?

You really should read the Productivity Commission report on the future of tertiary education…


I know that it’s a terrible title for a blog post.

But you really should read the Productivity Commission report on new models of tertiary education.

The report is 402 pages long, so here are your options:

And here’s why should you stop playing Candy Crush and read it…

It’s a damning indictment of the status quo and lack of innovation in tertiary education in New Zealand.

I might comment on this at some stage, but you need to read it for yourself and make up your own mind as to what next for tertiary education in New Zealand.

The report analyses the problems with the current system including over-regulation and control by government, but also presents some of the possible ways forward.

Opportunity knocks…

How do I gain access to the TEC Assessment Tool?

Screenshot 2016-03-07 11.17.41I’ve written a lot about how to use the TEC’s Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool.

Just type “assessment tool” in the search box on this blog and you’ll find a bunch of things including how to access your learners’ actual responses on the tool.

  • But how do you gain access to the tool in the first place?

Well, the answer involves bureaucracy. And filling out forms. And probably getting permission from those above you.

The form is buried online, but the link is here. And the first page looks like the screen shot above.



New online ESOL Assessment: Starting Points Listening

The NZCER have just released the Starting Points Listening to the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Tool. Here’s the blurb:

Starting Points Listening is one of two online, adaptive assessment options designed for learners who are at or below koru/step one of the Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy.

Starting Points Listening assesses a learner’s ability to understand basic, everyday words in spoken English. The main focus is listening. It is suitable only for beginning English language learners (ESOL), particularly those new to Aotearoa New Zealand.

For more information on how to use Starting Points Listening, please see the attached PDF.

Click here for the PDF: Introducing Starting Points. First page of 6 pages is pasted in below. Starting Points Reading will follow shortly.

Introducing Starting Points

Four Tools For Building Cool Stuff Online: Or How To Start Thinking Outside The Box


I went to the Supercharge conference the other day in Wellington. This was a business conference… nothing to do with literacy, numeracy or even education (I know… thank goodness right…?)

Lots of cool stuff. The coolest though was the 40-minute presentation by Justin Wilcox of Customer Development Labs.

At the start of his presentation, he said that in the 40 minutes that he had to speak he was going to do the following:

  1. Come up with a product idea.
  2. Get some customer feedback.
  3. Build a website
  4. Launch the product

Considering that by the time he had said all this he only had about 35 minutes left I think we were all rather skeptical.

But he pulled it off. And these were the tools that he used:

1. Customer Discovery Ninja

Just this on its own was very cool to see in action. The Customer Discovery Ninja is a tool that allows you to connect to potential customers in North America. They sign up because they have time on their hands and get a small reward for participating.

Justin had decided that he wanted to create some kind of Fitness Tracking App, so he had selected various categories and subcategories in the Customer Discovery Ninja. And ended up with something relating to fitness, weight loss, and diet as the key areas.

From there, he opened the phone line and waited for the call. 10 minutes later someone connected and we listened to him interview a guy in New York who was struggling with diet and weight loss issues.

After a few minutes, it was clear that what this guy needed was not a fitness tracking app, but some kind of product that allowed him to track what was working when it came to diet.

So based on the dialogue, Justin switched away from his initial idea to the diet tracking idea. And then he had about 10 minutes left to do everything else.

2. Instapage

And this is mostly what he used: Instapage. Within about 2 minutes, he had built two landing pages for his new product. Instapage allows you to create web pages via drag and drop.

And then he  created an alternate version of the page so that you could do A/B testing. Instapage makes this really easy. I haven’t tried any of this yet, but based on the demo I think it’s all doable.

3. Powtoon

From here, Justin wanted to jazz up the landing page a bit with a short animated video. For this he used Powtoon. Powtoon advertises itself as an alternative to Powerpoint. It;s drag and drop like Powerpoint or Keynote, but you end up with a animation at the end.

So another 2 minutes to create a short animation. And then he imported this into the Instapage landing pages.

4. Celery

Finally, he wanted a button on the landing page to take pre-orders for the product. So he used Celery for this. Celery is very simple. It’s just a button for taking credit card information for pre-orders. Buyers don’t get charged until your product launches.

And then he launched it.

So Justin didn’t actually create the product, but he did something that was in line with the lean startup method: Come up with a minimal viable product idea and then see if anyone would buy it.

From here, he would be able to take pre-orders to fund the development of the actual product.

It was fast and dirty. But it was impressive.

Justin practises what he preaches as well. And you can have a look at his series of books on how to implement this kind of thinking at his website here: The Focus Framework.

This stuff is cool. I wish I knew this when I started in business. Talking to Justin afterwards, he said that everyone wishes the same thing. And that we all come to these conclusions late.

In my field, we tend to be good at what we do. But this is only in terms of our technical skills. We get professional development and training in these areas.

But we are often rubbish at the skills we need to use our technical skills to build and run a sustainable business. We don’t know how to make a buck… to put it in crude terms.

Most of all, I think we need this kind of thinking in education: Customer validation, lean startup methodology, designing a minimum viable product, product testing.

And then quickly pivoting when it’s obvious that something isn’t working. Unfortunately, the regulatory environment (both TEC and NZQA) act in ways that run counter to this kind of thinking.

This is not their fault. But it’s time to start thinking outside the box.

Really thinking outside the box.

How do you survive as a teacher or tutor in a rapidly changing education landscape?

Happy place

So… what to do about it? If you’re like me you probably think a lot about what you need to do to survive and hopefully thrive in a rapidly changing educational landscape.

Or if you don’t think about it you should…

You can hide for a while from the massive changes ahead for work, education, and play, but it’s better to do it on your own terms.

The answer, or at least, the answer for me, is this:

  • think more like an entrepreneur in the weird world of education.

This means that you’re on the path to becoming an edupreneur. Yes, it’s a word.

Having your own education business is not a prerequisite to thinking like an entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter where you fit in the organisation, you can start thinking more like an entrepreneur.

How do you do this? It’s about changing your mindset for starters. And the simplest way to do that is to start using the some of the tools that entrepreneurs use to manage and do their work.

What kinds of tools am I talking about? You want use tools that enable you do these things:

  1. Use cloud-based technologies: Often we do need physical time in physical locations with physical learners. But what about your other work including admin tasks? Are you set up to do this from anywhere? Can you cut the chain to your desk? Can you cut the chain to your laptop? What tools do you need to do this?
  2. Seek customer feedback: This sounds basic. But what feedback do you get from your learners and others in your sphere of influence. How do you know that what you’re delivering is any good? Does your evaluation process give you any useful information?
  3. Iterate your education product: The best products, including education products have been through, and continue to go through countless iterations – that is, cycles of change and tweaking and improvement. This is where high quality feedback from your learners and others is critical if you want to rise above the plateau of mediocracy that plagues much of education. These innovation cycles can be small, but they are necessary if you want to create
  4. Develop and publish audio content: Can you create rich audio content for your learners? How do you feel about listening to the sound of your own voice? As a 21st century educator you need to feel comfortable with the sound of your own voice. Do you know how to record digital audio content? Have you ever listened to a podcast? Could you podcast chunks of your content? What tools do you need to do this?
  5. Develop and publish video content: Can you create rich video content for your learners that they can access anywhere anytime? Do you know how to record digital video content, edit it, and upload it to Youtube and other platforms? What tools do you need for this?
  6. Communicate without relying on Email: Email is horribly broken for most people who work in any kind of bureaucracy. What alternatives do you have to email for communications? Can you message your learners or your team? How do you broadcast key messages from your organisation? What about key messages from you personally? What’s the best platform? How can you engage your learners in a conversation outside of face-to-face interactions and email? Again, what tools do you need here?

Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 for each of the above… Any thoughts?

How to learn anything: Part 1


Let’s face it. Learning stuff can be hard. It’s not easy to go through a new learning curve for new content that you need for work, study, or even just for a hobby.

However, what if it was possible for you to learn anything?

Find an expert right? Get a teacher or a tutor? Join a course? Find a Guru? Go to college or university? Read a book even… Watch youtube videos…

But there’s a problem: People that are really good at whatever it is that you want to learn, aren’t always the best teachers. So you can’t always get the tools that you need from the masters or the experts. Or even from their books.

There’s reasons for this of course. Often it’s because the people that are really good at something, really outstanding at what they do, are often so immersed in their own stuff that they just can’t see or understand that you (and me) don’t already know what they know.

Experts, specialists, master practitioners often become so close to their own content that they simply assume – without meaning to and without awareness that they’re doing this – that you already have certain foundational building blocks in place for whatever it is they want to tell you.

And we’re all guilty of this actually. And just have a think about it. If you’re in business, and unless you’ve got an accounting background, do you really understand what the last thing was that your hot-shot accountant said to you? Or your mortgage broker? Or your IT specialist?

What about if you’re at university, or in a technical or vocational training course, or even at high school? Did you even grasp part of what the Economics teacher just said? Or the electrician? Or the doctor?

You might think that what you’d need is some kind of secret sauce perhaps… Some kind of pill to make you smarter or able to concentrate hard or work better…?

Perhaps not.

What you’d really need is a toolbox of tools to help you. This toolbox of tools would be your super learning system.

Hopefully, it would be a system that you could use again and again with new and different content. It would evolve and develop with you as you evolve and develop.

Learning new stuff will still be hard. It often is. But you can make it better by having the right tools. The right tools for the right job.

What we’re experiencing is an exponential growth in knowledge right now. More and more people are becoming more and more specialised in narrower and narrower fields.

It’s overwhelming. Confusing. Intimidating.

But what if the tools and the toolbox you needed was really simple… really straightforward… What if this toolbox contained a lot of things that you already know and use.

And what if the tools didn’t depend on smart… but on grit.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Not everyone is smart… but perhaps grit is something you can learn too… something that everyone has access to already if they just switch it on in their brain and body.

What if I could show you this toolbox of tools? Would you find something to apply it to?

What would you learn if you could learn anything?