Never-Never pedagogical aspirations

I watched #TheGhan on Sunday here in Australia on the SBS channel. Like many others (181,000 peak time viewers), I found the 17 hour journey enchanting.

Dan Whelan, the writer and producer, said of the film of the 2997 kilometer journey from Adelaide to Darwin:

We set out to achieve three things: first, the feeling of being immersed on the journey; second, to shoot the landscape from the train in a way that would work to blend with text and pictures on screen; and finally, to keep the journey exciting and make the train a character in the documentary.

All three worked for me. I had lots of time to think about how these three characteristics relate to personal learning journeys.

Up in the Northern Territory part of the journey, south of Katherine, one of Dan’s texts really caught my attention … as the Ghan passed 30 kilometers to the west of Elsey Station Mataranka.

It was a quote from Jeannie Gunn‘s We of the Never Never (1908). She wrote about her experiences of living at Elsey Station:

Called the Never-Never, the Maluka loved to say, because they who have lived in it and loved it, Never-Never voluntarily leave it.

I thought this might be a wonderful pedagogical aspiration on a slow learning journey. Dan’s three aims for the Ghan film do translate into a Never-Never pedagogy:

  • Immersed on the journey
  • A shared landscape to blend resources
  • Keeping the journey exciting

… and being patient with each other and engaged on this voyage of discovery.

Photo Credits

The Ghan (Shane Cubis)

Matt Smithson (Twitter)

Beyond ‘world leading’ aspirations

I was in Tasmania for the Christmas holidays. Whilst I was there I found a copy of the MOFO (Museum of Old and New Art: Festival Of Music and Art) program for January 2018.

I was particularly interested in David Walsh’s foreword in the program. I have emphasised the last two sentences:

I’m in Seville, a city I’ve not been to before. It’s splendid—one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. And everybody knows it. The locals are proud, the tourists are agog, the atmosphere is feverish. Christopher Columbus left for the new world from here, and he inadvertently brought back most of what makes Seville so spectacular.

Recently my wife spent some time doing art in Launceston. I was there with her, and found it to be enchanting. But it lacked the fever. While Mofo has been fetching flair for ten years now, and depositing it in Hobart, plenty has been happening in Launnie, but not many know it.

Launceston isn’t Seville, and Mona isn’t Christopher Columbus, but I am curious to see if we can raise the temperature in Launceston. There’s nothing more interesting than danger. And there is nothing more dangerous than a new world.

The sentences took me back to my discomfort in reading the Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport 2017. Two of the five areas identified in the report are:

  • Becoming the most active sporting nation …
  • Developing a world leading, trusted sports industry …

I wondered how the MOFO writers might address these aspirations. I wondered too what kind of ‘fever’ a document writing about 2036 might generate by finding different ways of sharing the danger of new lands … because that is where we are heading.

We can let go of ‘world leading’ statements and just do our very best to engender a love of play, games and sport. We do have twenty years to address, nurture and support the essence of play, games and sport in our culture.

We could be very modest about this.

Photo Credit

A tough Nut to crack (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Thinking about unmeetings

Stefanie Butland has been writing about unconferences.

In November, she shared six tips for running a successful unconference.

An ‘unconference’ has no schedule set before the event. Participants discuss project ideas online in advance and projects are selected by participant-voting at the start.

Stefanie’s six tips are:

  • Have a code of conduct.
  • Host online discussion of project ideas before the unconference.
  • Have a pre-unconference video-chat with first-time participants
  • Run an effective ice breaker
  • Have a plan to capture content
  • Care about other people’s success

Stefanie notes that Aidan Budd and his colleagues (2015) have a list of ten rules for organising an unconference.

In a second post in December, Stefanie wrote about the value of welcome in preparing new community members for an unconference.

An unconference of 70 participants had 45 people attending their first unconference. Stephanie wrote an introductory email to these 45:

Stephanie used the free Calendly tool to schedule meetings. She sent some questions in advance of the online conversations ( and used a Google Form questionnaire to compile responses (individually and collectively).

The online conversations enabled Stephanie “to prime people to connect on day-one of the unconference with others with similar interests or from related work sectors”.  She noticed that: immediately after our conversation, first-time participants would join the online discussion of existing project ideas, or they themselves proposed new ideas. My conversations with two first-time participants led directly to their proposing community-focussed projects – a group discussion and a new blog series of interviews!

She added:

An unexpected benefit was that questions people asked me during the video chats led to actions I could take to improve the unconference. For example, when someone wanted to know what previous participants wished they knew beforehand, I asked for and shared example resources. One wise person asked me what my plan was for having project teams report out at the end of the unconference and this led directly to a streamlined plan (See Six tips for running a successful unconference).

I think Stephanie’s posts are great resources for anyone contemplating an unconference or hackathon. Earlier this year, I was involved in a hackathon in Ireland (#abbotsthon17). One of the issues that did arise then was how to connect a community that was emerging.

Stephanie’s introductory, welcome email resonates strongly with my interest in first-in-family initiatives in higher education. It resonates too with Nancy White’s stewardship practices.

From each of these inspirations, I am very clear about the importance of inducting people into a community and supporting them once they have made the decision to engage (or even participate peripherally).

Photo Credits

Stefanie Butland (Twitter)

P1580274 (David Haberthür, CC BY-NC 2.0)