I’ve never really thought about what’s behind successful entrepreneurship until I read a post about Yossi Vardi, a technology start-up entrepreneur.

As I read the article describing some of Vardi’s beliefs about success – his and that of other entrepreneurs – I found myself thinking that many of his comments, thoughts and ideas are quite relevant to education.  While I recommend reading the full post: Driven by the mother of ambition…..  thoughts which floated through my mind as I read this article run something like this:

  • Measuring success: Clearly it’s our perspective that is important.  Does failure play a role in determining success? While others regard Vardi as a successful entrepreneur he says:  “I sold 25 out of 86 start-ups.  That makes me the most successful angel investor in Israel, but 27 went bust which also makes me the worst.”  As Vardi notes later in the article, failure is an important part of the learning process.  Learning from our mistakes can be a powerful motivator for success.  “Someone who fails has much stronger motivation to succeed second time around.”
  • Motivation:  Taking a risk and just having a go are essential for both success and learning. Considering what drives motivation is the interesting question though.  Challenges which present along the learning path undoubtedly motivate achievement.  Providing opportunities to be challenged need to be integral to learning programs.
  • Expectation: But is it just challenges that spur achievement or is it stated or unstated expectations that drive success, learning and achievement?  I’ve blogged previously about a belief that was instilled in me very early in my career by Dr Leo Murphy:

Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is.  Treat a man as he could be, and he will grow to be than man.”

Vardi however, takes this belief one step further by focusing on cultural expectations which emanate from the home.  Being challenged by criticism,  he suggests, can be a powerful motivator for success and even goes on to state that “A high proportion of entrepreneurs the world over have been driven by proving to a teacher or parent, who had put them down, that they were wrong.”  While I am unable to accept the  notion of incorporating negative criticism into our classrooms as a way of enhancing achievement, I do believe there is much value to be derived from setting the bar high.  By establishing high expectations within our schools far more than high achievement levels will be the outcome.  Schools that establish high benchmarks will immerse their students in a rich learning environment in which students become inquisitive learners with keen critical thinking and problem solving skills that enable them to develop into independent learners who value learning for the sake of learning, rather than just achieving high test results.

  • Responsibility: Giving students purpose and responsibility from an early age, does, as Vardi suggests “set them up for life”.  Matching students’ interests and skills with roles and tasks needed within their class, year level or school, is a formidable way to instill a sense of purpose, value and self worth.  An additional by-product of this is of course learning to work as part of a team.
  • Learning to question:  A clip from the movie The Contender, in which Jeff Bridges tells the story of Five Wet Monkeys perfectly illustrates the value to be gained from questioning established routines, processes and knowledge. By creating learning situations in which students are not afraid to question, argue, debate and challenge assumptions presented, creates active learners who develop independent thinking skills.
  • Success builds success: While Vardi notes that in business, achievement becomes a magnet for attracting foreign investment, my firm belief is that in our schools achievement spurs continued achievement.  Just take a look at the face of any learner who is commended for successful achievement and watch how he or she blossoms.  Most definitely – success begets continued success!

Considering how ideas from business or, as in this case, characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, can provide  fresh ideas, new approaches or ratification of current practice to educators.

It’s no wonder that this video, posted just a few days ago on August 10th , has gone viral.

Fear and disbelief flooded through me as I watched how easily young girls could be sucked into believing that people they chat with on Social Media are who they say they are.  The anguish of loving parents who have clearly spent time educating their daughters to stranger danger in both face-to-face and digital situations hasn’t overcome the reality of the dangers of Social Media.

Predators are evil and are very real.

How can we do it better?

Perhaps sharing this video is just one path.

Don’t do it!

I’m making a wild guess that there wouldn’t be one person who hasn’t done this.  The message is crystal clear.

Don’t do it!


Love those cool pictures that talented barristers etch onto the top of your coffee?

Well ….. this art has been taken to a new dimension by Ripple Maker who have developed a coffee printing device which, with just the tap of a button, creates personalized greetings or pictures.

Pretty cool – no?!

And if that isn’t exciting enough, the Ripples iPhone app enables anyone to create an image in just a few seconds which can be printed onto the top of a coffee!  The Ripple Maker is part of a platform made up of your machine, the website and a mobile app.  The app, pre-loaded with a library of ripples categorized into themes, greetings, quotes and more, can even be customized.

Check it out:

The freedom to learning anything, anytime, anywhere and with absolutely anybody is a gift that today’s online world affords educators.  It is a gift which empowers educators to create their own learning opportunities and challenges and enables them to meet up with other like-minded people who have similar interests.

Writing about the process of learning within the safe boundaries of a Personal Learning Network is an opportunity which has been given to me by Education Technology Solutions, an Australian based publication.  This, the third in a series of articles I have written for this magazine around the theme of lifelong learning: Develop a Personal Learning Network to inspire lifelong learning in which I describe the nature of PLNs, how to create one and what can be gained from participating in one, has just been published – Issue 67, August/September 2015.

ABSTRACT: Encouraging teachers to become self-starters, who are able to take control of their own learning, design its path and learn based on their own interests and needs should be the aim of all school professional learning programs.  Participation in Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) is a resource which can liberate teachers from the confines of traditional learning opportunities such as those offered in staff meetings, curriculum days, workshops and conferences. PLNs in which connections with other learners is a key component is the perfect vehicle to attain this aim. Participation in a PLN is both exhilarating and inspirational and is the essence of lifelong learning!

Also published online on the Educational Technology Solutions website, I’m pleased to also be able to share my article here:

Develop a Personal Learning Network To Inspire Lifelong Learning!

pic1By Bev Novak.

Encouraging teachers to become lifelong learners should be the aim of each school’s professional learning program. Learning success inspires a sense of achievement, self-satisfaction, increased confidence and motivates continued learning, leaving teachers feeling empowered to set their own agenda and pursue knowledge just for the sake of it.

To motivate this kind of learning, there is perhaps no better resource than that of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), a resource which can liberate teachers from the confines of traditional learning opportunities such as those offered in staff meetings, curriculum days, workshops and conferences. PLNs, in which connections with other learners is a key component, are both exhilarating and inspirational.

“Education is far less about a set of facts than a way of thinking,” says the professor and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. “And therefore what I always think should be the basis of education is not answers but questions.”

Published on Jun 10, 2015

Krauss suggests that the task of educators is to teach kids to think and question.  In this short Big Think video he also argues that educators are the ones who should set standards, not school boards who are elected to run the schools.

Perhaps most controversially, he strongly suggests that standardized tests do not advance the education of kids one iota and that they have no place in our school programs.

Take a listen:

I just read a great article about the impact that technology is reaping on teachers in the Term 1 Edition of TechnologyEd – a great quarterly publication by EducationHQ.

Nodding my head in agreement at virtually everything that was written, I found myself reflecting on my own career – the then and now.

It may come as a surprise to younger teachers to know that the base line in the education sector hasn’t really changed all that much.  Being stressed and overwhelmed by the enormity of the job has always been a part of a career in education. Nothing, really, has ever changed.

Back then, in my early days of teaching, there was always

  • more to be done than could be humanely completed in a day
  • heaps to learn which invariably had to be done ‘on the job’
  • a never ending stream of correction and lesson preparation
  • constant communication demands to have responses ready for
    • students
    • parents
    • work colleagues
    • Heads of Department
    • School Admin

Nothing has changed.  We are still working at an impossible pace.   The same demands as then loom large on a daily basis.

Today though, technology has layered itself across everything we do.  For those not born with a mouse or a device in their hands, we’ve had to become familiar with technology whilst simultaneously using it and figuring out how to incorporate it into our teaching repertoire.   As I see it, there are two major aspects of technology that we need to get a handle on: technology as an adjunct to teaching and learning and technology as an adjunct to communication.

And from whichever way we look at it, technology ratchets up the stress level by more than just a few notches.  Many claim that stress levels today are higher than they were.  Back then the catch word was ‘teacher burnout’.  Today the new jargon is “technostress”.

So what is technostress?

stress or psychosomatic illness caused by working with computer technology on a daily basis (Wikipedia)

a feeling of anxiety or mental pressure from overexposure or involvement with (computer) technology (Dictionary.com)

It’s real and its constant.

There probably are few of us who can’t identify with ‘technostress’.  Knowing how to deal with it can be baffling because it is multi-layered.  Unfortunately there isn’t just one ‘fix’ to make it go away.  Some obvious suggestions spring to mind though:

  1. Designated ‘time out’: Set aside a regular time slot in the day or the week to not use technology.
  2. Self discipline: Make decisions and stick to them!
  3. Establish routines: Create on and off times for using technology.
  4. Set priorities: Weigh up the importance of daily routines and prioritize them.
  5. Restrict response: Set limits on the amount of time spent using technology.
  6. Create quiet time: Find time in a day to just ‘be’.
  7. Separate work and home: Work at work and relax at home.
  8. Do one thing at a time: Be offline when you read, listen to music, cook, eat or play with your child.
  9. Switch your smartphone off: Let replies go to message bank. Turn off the alarm for incoming call.
  10. Technology Sabbath: Yes! One day off a week!  Check out the gains to be had in this Sabbath Manifesto:
Sabbath Manifesto

Sabbath Manifesto


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