Nearly 80,000 words later…! All collections for the NZCALNE (Voc) are now live on Pathways Awarua.

Screenshot 2017-09-29 14.11.46

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that over the last eight months I have only posted content relating to the new NZCALNE (Voc).

Well… we’re done. I finished the writing a few months back, but I’m very happy to report that all seven collections including all the new and revised content are now live on Pathways Awarua.

If you’re already registered, you’ll automatically have access to all of the new content. If you’re not, you can enrol as a new tertiary educator.

This has been a mammoth writing project with something close to 77,000 words of new and updated content.

I kinda feel like I’ve said everything I want to say about the NZCALNE (Voc). My sincere thanks to the awesome team at Pathways Awarua.

What’s next…? Probably, more of the same, but I’m open to ideas. Let me know.

Cheers, Graeme


How Should We Evaluate Our Training?

Kathy Sierra Post UX UX

I’m changing how I think about course evaluation… And how everything should be evaluated.

Here’s a new set of questions. Try them out for yourself after the next training session you deliver. Or attend.

Or after any new experience:

  • What did that experience enable?
  • What can I now do?
  • What can I now show others?
  • What will I say to others?
  • How am I now more powerful?

Or if you’re someone involved in designing something new… Or re-designing something. And your results are tied to the results of your users, then what matters is what happens when their experience with your training course (or product or service) is done.

Here are the same questions in their original form.

  • What did that experience enable?
  • What can they now do?
  • What can they now show others?
  • What will they say to others?
  • How are they now more powerful?

These questions come courtesy of Kathy Sierra and her excellent book: Badass: Making Users Awesome (p.56). There’s a link to the book here on Kathy’s blog.

Kathy calls this the post-user experience user experience. Buy the book. It’s awesome.

Adobe Illustrator Is Transforming How I Develop Teaching Materials

Screenshot 2015-09-04 16.21.47

I’m really slow at this, but I’m enjoying how using Adobe Illustrator is changing and improving how I go about developing teaching resources.

There’s a lot jammed on this page, but it’s also high definition. It’s designed to be printed at A3 or larger if possible.

This is everything that my students need to know about the requirements for the biggest assessment in our course. It’s also the assessment that confuses people the most often.

What this conveys (hopefully), is that the teaching component boils down to 8 activities that sit under two learning outcomes. And all of this has to be backed up with supporting evidence that they’ve done the work.

This is not something I’d use as a slide obviously. But I’m a big believer in giving out one-page handouts.

Even if it’s an enormous one page.

7 Things You Need To Do To Totally Dominate Literacy and Numeracy

2B08153900000578-3182764-image-a-2_1438496978386The other day I listed a bunch of reasons why you need to punch literacy and numeracy in the face.

Today I want to tell you how to be the Ronda Rousey of adult literacy and numeracy education.

Some of this you can do on your own. Mostly, though you need to do this as an team inside an organisation.

That makes it hard. This is mainly because people are idiots.

I’m kidding (don’t quote me out of context please). People aren’t idiots, but this is a niche inside a niche so you have to have a deep understanding of how things work across a bunch of different dimensions. And you’ll have to work hard to pull it off.

But if you (and your team) can master these 7 areas, I think you could totally dominate this field. You could rip the arms off literacy and numeracy and throw them in the corner.

This is from my reflection and experience so I’m happy to be wrong. If you think differently and have some better ideas please let me know in the comments.

Here’s my take on the critical success factors that need to be in place if you want to totally dominate this market:

  1. You need the right team. This is not rocket science. But you do need the right team including subject area experts with deep domain knowledge. This team needs to include the key thought leaders in the sector at the present time. I think this means a (mostly) younger team of people aligned to a strong vision for literacy and numeracy in the 21st century.
  2. You need access to TEC funding. Access to dedicated literacy and numeracy funding streams. This includes a spread of funding across all aspects of literacy and numeracy provision including ALEG, ILN, and WPL as well as probably SAC funding for courses where literacy and numeracy are supposed to be embedded as part of “business as usual”. It goes without saying that you also need a good relationship with the TEC. There is no point going to war with your funding agency. This is called “cutting off your nose to spite your face”.
  3. You need to be able to deliver the right outcomes. This means meeting and exceeding TEC requirements for showing progress in Assessment Tool results, embedding LN into business as usual operations, and minimum professional development of staff, i.e the NCALNE (Voc).
  4. You need a strong professional development focus. If the sector was in its infancy prior to the $167 million investment of the TEC, then we must now be nearing the end of our adolescence. However, there is still a huge amount of work to be done to upskill tutors and trainers at every level, but especially those teaching at Levels 1 and 2 or in Foundation Learning programmes. Vocational training programmes around the country see massive amounts of churn when it comes to tutors. This area needs immediate attention, especially due to the requirements of the TEC in regards to Section 159 of the Education Act 1989 where these tutors are required to hold the NCALNE (Voc) as a minimum qualification. This is where you need to really to punch literacy and numeracy in the face.
  5. You need to create new knowledge. We need to build on the existing infrastructure and knowledge to create new knowledge, new content, new qualifications, new courses, new research, new processes and new systems for increasing our learners’ literacy and numeracy levels. This is not just in order to meet compliance requirements and avoid financial penalties, but to contribute to the wider education goals of our country.
  6. You need to set up scalable systems. Most of the way we currently do education is not set up to scale. This is true of the teaching as well as the systems that exist behind the scenes. For example, the success that ALEC has enjoyed with the NCALNE (Voc) training is due in part to the project management approach we use behind the scenes. Rather than a regular student management system we have adapted and refined a cloud-based project management system for our own specific purposes. Each candidate is a project within the larger system and we can track and assign every step along the learning journey from enrolment through training through to digital archiving at the end. Our course now sits inside Pathways Awarua in an online learning environment. Both of these systems are massively scalable.
  7. You need an entrepreneurial approach. There are multiple untapped opportunities for the right team to exploit and develop in order to reduce the impact of reliance on TEC funding. While these funding streams are the bread and butter of our work, they always represent a risk to some degree. Potential opportunities:
    1. Resources: The development of commercial education related resources and materials for sale nationally and internationally is one way to develop an alternative income stream. This needs an online business model, probably with some kind of freemium/premium approach and contextualised to the vocational areas that need the support.
    2. Training: The development and packaging of literacy and numeracy related intellectual property including training and qualifications for sale internationally is another opportunity. Our literacy and numeracy professional development qualifications are unique in the world and could provide the vehicle to export the wider infrastructure. This is untapped potential although I’m aware that people have been talking about it.
    3. Consulting: Investigating opportunities for international consulting around the unique approach we have which incorporates indigenous pedagogies with adult literacy and numeracy education and professional development is another potential opportunity. The NCALNE (Voc) is a case study how to bring together these various elements in an effective way. Again, this is untapped international potential.
    4. Approach: Approaching education through an entrepreneurial lens in general. This means looking for practical solutions to all aspects of the work through effective use of technology and creative thinking. We’re still largely stuck in a 20th century model of doing education and we don’t really know what is going to work moving forward. However, we need space to try (and fail) at a whole range of different things if we want to start seeing different results.

What do entrepreneurs do that you could do if you work in education? Part 1: Ideas, concepts, tools

Build dynamic content

Literacy and numeracy is a tough business to work in due to the increasing demands of… well, everything.

I have a conference workshop coming up soon and I’m going to argue that one of the things that has worked well for me (in terms of daily survival) is training myself to think and act more like an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs have to live with risk and uncertainty. They also have to make decisions based on incomplete information. And then there’s the fact that sometimes you just never get a return on your investment of time, energy, and other resources.

Just like a lot of us in education…

But also, entrepreneurs approach the world through quite a different lens to educators and bureaucrats.

This change in how I think has helped me with my teaching, my approach to course development, and with my business overall.

Keep in mind, I’m not against student centred approaches and all of that goes with that. I’m firmly on the side of student centred approaches and these are central to what we teach and how we work with our students.

What I’m on about here is taking stock of what I do and looking for what is going to help me stay alive and hopefully thrive in my work. So let’s get us-centred for just a minute.

Given that some days it feels like a knife fight, you might wonder why you (or I) keep on working in education. The answer has something to do with making the world a better place and changing people’s lives.

But that aside, here are some of the things that I think entrepreneurs do that I’ve tried that make my work in education better for me. I’m not saying that they’ll work for you. But they’ve worked for me.

Each of these sounds kind of simple, but it’s taken me years to understand what they mean for me. Feel free to adopt, adapt or ignore.


  • The customer: This is not as simple as it sounds in education. I know who my customers are.
  • Business model design: I know what’s under the hood. I know how revenue is generated. I’m very clear on how my business model works and how the components fit together. And by implication I know how the components can be taken apart, remixed, and put back together again.


  • Design thinking: I have my own version of this but when it comes to developing courses and materials, maintaining them over time, and updating them – I have very explicit processes including brainstorming, prototyping, and iteration. This allows me to create content that is dynamic and evolving.
  • Systems thinking: Over time I’ve designed a very effective system for managing the professional development and training that we deliver. In a nutshell, there’s a list of over a hundred things that have to happen from student enquiry, through the training process, up to when we digitally archive a student’s file after graduating… and these have to happen for every single person regardless of when they start. I have another system for understanding our quality assurance processes and others for teaching and explaining key concepts and various aspects of our training.

Tools and apps

  • Project and task management: I use a cloud-based project management software application to run all aspects of student and learning management. It’s highly customised and means we can work from anywhere with a small team. The software runs the system. And it’s scalable and I could duplicate it for other courses if I needed to.
  • Cloud based productivity tools: I use Google Apps now for all email, word processing, and most spreadsheets. These tools work across all devices and platforms and I’m not chained to any one computer, device, or physical location.
  • Other digital creative tools: This is a relatively new area for me. Here the tools move away from productivity and into graphic design and audio visual recording. I have a drawing tablet and stylus that I use for illustrations, a microphone for recording audio, a camera for video, and a range of different software applications for editing, mixing, and mastering various kinds of digital media.

I’d be interested to know what works for you. Let me know in the comments.

NCALNE (Voc) => NZCALNE (Voc) Update

NCALNE Voc Replacement?

For anyone who’s interested in the progress of the replacement qualification for the NCALNE (Voc), my summary of the work to date happening on the NZQA side is below:

  • Towards the end of last year the Teacher Education Governance Group, based on a summary of sector feedback recommended that the NZCALNE (Voc) was submitted for “Application to List”. This was published on the NZQA website here.
  • This approval to list was noted here on the NZQA update page for TROQ review of teacher quals.
  • The update also shows the newly drafted NZCALNE (Voc) as worked on by myself and others in the working group with a reference in the file name to the final version being uploaded in Feb 2015.

From the updates on the NZQA website, it looks like everything is in order. But the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly and I don’t expect much to change in the near future.

Normally, there is a significant lead in time when introducing a new qualification to allow providers and others to make adjustments needed to deliver and assess against a replacement.

For now, the current version of the NCALNE (Voc) is still fit for purpose in our view and we’re likely to keep delivering in it’s current format until new arrangements on all sides are finalised.

What to do if your adult learners have dyslexia


This is another issue that comes up from time to time in our training. Effectively diagnosing and working with dyslexia falls outside of the narrow range of skills that we tend to focus on with our literacy and numeracy professional development and training with trades and vocational tutors.

However, it does come up in discussions with trades and vocational tutors. Here are seven short videos from the National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults. Here’s the playlist:

  1. Defining dyslexia
  2. Diagnosing dyslexia
  3. Tailoring the instruction and dyslexia
  4. A strategic approach to dyslexia
  5. Coping with dyslexia
  6. Living with dyslexia
  7. Multiple perspectives and dyslexia

I’d appreciate any feedback if you find these useful or not. Let me know in the comments.